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Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR), Pennsylvania Division records

Creation: 1930-1934
Accession: 2271


The Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR) National Committee investigated the increase in drunkenness and effect of Prohibition, operated a publicity campaign, created a speakers' bureau, spoke at legislative hearings, and enrolled members. This collection of the Pennsylvania division records consists of the Executive Committee minutes, administrative files, financial records, and membership records.


  • Creation: 1930-1934



28.5 Linear Feet

Historical Note

The Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR) was officially founded in Chicago in May 1929 and was led by Pauline Morton Sabin (1887-1955) of New York. Sabin, the first woman to serve on the National Republican Committee, had resigned her position because of the dominance of the "dry" faction and its party's support for Prohibition. The WONPR divided the United States into fourteen regions with regional directors; each state had its own chair. The WONPR National Committee investigated the increase in drunkenness and effect of Prohibition, operated a publicity campaign, created a speakers' bureau, spoke at legislative hearings, and enrolled members. WONPR had no mandatory membership dues. To join, a woman merely had to sign a card which stated several beliefs and that she was enrolling as a member.

At its first national convention in Cleveland in April 1930, conference participants supported repeal, not moderation of the act, and favored state regulation of manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. State chapters were largely autonomous, with the primary obligation to the national organization being a financial commitment of ten percent of the state WONPR funds. By 1931, WONPR had 1.5 million members nation-wide. While membership came from all economic levels, locally and nationally prominent women filled leadership positions. This was due less to a desire to indulge "society" women who wanted to start at the top, than to political reality. WONPR leaders had to be women of impeccable community standing who had long been active in local public affairs, in order both to assuage public uneasiness over the appropriateness of women working against prohibition and to counter hysterical dry claims that the organization was dominated by booze-thirsty barflies. WONPR also supported state ratifying conventions to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment. The WONPR was formally abolished in December 1933 after the thirty-sixth state voted for repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment.

The Pennsylvania Division of WONPR was formed December 6, 1929 at the home of Elizabeth Conway Clark (1757-1843) of Bryn Mawr. Maria N. Dougherty (1898-1958) was elected Acting Chairman at that meeting, and elected Chair at the first statewide conference in Harrisburg in 1930. She refused re-nomination in October 1932, and Elizabeth Conway Clark was elected as her successor. During Dougherty's time as Chair, state membership increased from 19 to nearly 100,000 women.

At the October 1930 statewide conference a plan of organization was created, which divided the sixtyseven counties into nine regions, each under a regional chair. The regional chair's jurisdiction comprised the counties in definite congressional districts, each county managed by a county chair, with officers and committees modeled after the state plan. Many local headquarters were established, as well as two state headquarters -- one in Philadelphia, and one in Harrisburg for the convenience of delegates from all parts of the state to call upon the legislators.

The Pennsylvania Division became involved in two bitterly fought political campaigns during the first year of its existence. The first was the spring primaries of 1930, and the second campaign was the November 1930 general election. When the regular Republican candidates refused to come out squarely for or against Prohibition, Repeal Organizations entered candidates pledged to a Repeal platform. A "vigorous and colorful fight" was waged on behalf of Thomas W. Phillips (1835-1912) for Governor, Charles Dorrance (1883-1977) for Lieutenant Governor, and Francis H. Bohlen (1868-1942) for United States Senator. Although these candidates lost the primaries, the apparent defeat was considered the greatest forward stride taken for repeal in Pennsylvania. It encouraged the Repealists to back John M. Hemphill (1891-1957), Liberal and Democratic candidate for Governor, in opposing "dry" Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946). After Hemphill lost the election, the Pennsylvania Division turned to a bombardment of Pennsylvania's members in the Congress, and in the General Assembly. Candidates and incumbents were persistently subjected to questionnaires and personal visits from constituents; voting by members of both parties on matters related to WONPR's cause was closely watched, and opponents were called to a strict accounting.

During the 1932 political campaign, the state branches of WONPR held a Repeal Week, which was a week in May devoted to an intensive publicity campaign and a drive for members and funds. During Repeal Week the Pennsylvania Division conducted a tour of buses with amplifying equipment to carry speakers through the southeastern counties of Pennsylvania. The climax of Repeal Week was a revue entitled "The Merry-Go-Round," which proved to be one of the outstanding shows of the year in Philadelphia.

The campaign in Pennsylvania for ratification of the 21st Amendment had been launched early, as part of a political program that included work for the repeal of the Snyder-Armstrong Act, the enactment of an omnibus bill for liquor control, and for passage of the Blaine Resolution. Because of the efforts of the Pennsylvania Division's Congressional and Legislative Committee, the McClure Bill was finally passed in May 1933, providing for the state convention to vote on the 21st Amendment. WONPR then proceeded to obtain signatures to the nominating petitions of the Repeal delegates. Before the election of November 7th, three large motor cavalcades were organized to carry speakers and publicity materials into all sections of the state. The election went four to one for ratification. The Pennsylvania Division of WONPR passed a resolution to formally disband at the end of December 1933.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of the Executive Committee minutes, administrative files, financial records, and membership records maintained by Ella du Barry and her sister, Fanny Montgomery.

Series I, Executive Committee minutes has minutes for the state Executive Committee from 1932 until February, 1934 (only some months for 1933), and for the Philadelphia County Executive Committee from October 16, 1930-December 20, 1933.

Series II, Administrative files, includes files documenting the WNOPR's activities in each of Pennsylvania's counties. There are files about candidates who ran for office in the 1930 Pennsylvania primary and general election, and for the candidates in the 1932 Presidential election. There are files about the convention delegates for the 1933 convention to vote on the 21st Amendment. This series also contains information used in lobbying the delegates to the Democratic and Republican national conventions in 1932, and files about state and national legislation. There are also files about Pennsylvania and United States legislators, and letters written to WONPR about the pros and cons of prohibition and about WONPR's efforts.

Series II also includes literature on liquor control systems adopted by several other states and foreign countries, as well as material from the New York office of WONPR, and on WONPR's internal organization. The National Information Service bulletin dated May 31, 1933 gives figures of votes for referenda in the various states during Prohibition, along with the subjects of the referenda. Series II also includes petitions, publicity, extensive newspaper clippings, speeches given by members of the Pennsylvania Division of WONPR, and files about the Wickersham Commission's investigations on Prohibition enforcement and the crime and corruption associated with bootleg liquor.

Series III, Financial records, contains bank statements and cancelled checks from several bank accounts. There are also some bookkeeping records from 1930 to 1931, and records of receipts and expenses. There are also treasurer's and auditor's reports, appeals, correspondence, and membership contributions and pledges. Another section is duplicate receipt cards, which list the contributions made by each member during the life of the Pennsylvania Division of WONPR.

Series IV, Membership records, begins with some membership lists. Most of these lists are for Philadelphia. The bulk of the series is membership cards for individual members. Many of the cards are organized by county, and then alphabetically by members' name. There is also a section of cards that is a "master list - contributions prospect list."

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Language of Materials


Additional Description


Donated by the Brooke Farm Homeowners Association, 2002

Brooke Farm is an affluent housing development located in Wayne, PA on property that once belonged to Joseph N. Du Barry III and his wife Ella Brock Du Barry. Ella Du Barry had been on the Executive Committee of the Philadelphia County Division of WONPR. At the committee's first meeting on October 16, 1930 she was asked to maintain the membership cards, and accepted the task. Her sister Fanny (Mrs. W.W. Montgomery, Jr.) was treasurer of the Pennsylvania Division of WONPR, which may account for other records being stored in the barn as part of the collection.

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR), Pennsylvania Division records
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Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA