Lombardo and Thompson Present on Eugenics and Alcohol Prohibition

Paul Lombardo, Regents’ Professor and Bobby Lee Cook Professor of Law, joined Lauren MacIvor Thompson, faculty fellow with the Center for Law, Health & Society and lecturer of history at Georgia State’s Perimeter College, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine in Los Angeles in May, to present papers on the relationship between the 20th Century American eugenics movement and the campaign for prohibition of alcohol.

Lombardo’s presentation focused on the role of British physician and eugenic activist Caleb Saleeby, who traveled to the U.S. as debate over adoption of the 18th Amendment filled the headlines. Saleeby made common cause with the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement and prominent statesman William Jennings Bryan, who credited the eugenic argument against alcohol as one of the most effective weapons the anti-alcohol forces employed.

Thompson highlighted how Margaret Sanger emphasized the need for birth control by adopting the moral rhetoric of the temperance movement. Sanger proposed that Prohibition would aid victims of domestic abuse, who suffered from the drunken assaults of their husbands, and subsequent unwanted pregnancies. Prohibition would empower women by removing the toxic effects of drinking from their lives.

Both Lombardo and Thompson will continue work on these papers and related research that will be featured at a UK conference to be held at the University of Bristol in September.