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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Baraboo Bottle Bashers

In the 1850's, a group of Baraboo women took it upon themselves to make their town dry. At the time, nearly every grocery had liquor available, as well as the saloons and hotels in town, with whiskey often being the hottest commodity. Then as now, drunken men were responsible for much violence against women, "young girls were seduced, homes were broken up, [and] men's lives were ruined." The concerned women of Baraboo held a meeting at a local church and decided on a plan of action.

The next day, about 40 of them set out with axes and other tools hidden under their shawls. They marched down the main street and at each hotel or grocery, half of the women would approach the proprietor while the other half snuck around the back of the building. Once inside, the second group would begin smashing all the bottles and hauling the barrels of whiskey out into the streets. They managed to hit every liquor outlet in town, draining every last drop of alcohol.

Hotel and store owners naturally tried to have the women prosecuted, but eventually lost their case to a sympathetic judge who sided with the women. Years later Mary Hartwell, the last survivor of the incident, recounted the story with unrestrained glee, still firm in her belief that it was the best course of action the women could have taken.

Read more about temperance at Turning Points in Wisconsin History, and view related pictures at Wisconsin Historical Images.

:: Posted in Curiosities on August 12, 2010

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