Vol. 5, No. 5, Wednesday February 25, 2009

by dick bales

The home page of this website points out that the phrase “pre-pro” includes any shot glass made prior to 1920, which was the year in which the Volstead Act was enacted. This legislation made the sale of alcohol for anything other than medicinal purposes illegal.

But something else happened in 1920—the 19th Amendment was ratified. This amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote in federal elections.

A Sociological Study of Women on Shot Glasses

So it seems that one might argue that until 1920, women were pretty much second-class citizens, at least in terms of voting in national elections. But let’s take this concept even further—how were women depicted on shot glasses prior to 1920—were they second-class citizens in this respect, too?

At first one might conclude that this was the case. Consider the five shot glasses shown here. The Old Maid glass is certainly a term of derision. And the four women shown in theMorning Joy,  I give you health, Bosak’s, and Turner’s glasses are surely the stereotypical depiction of “old maids.”

And then there is the other extreme—women portrayed, not as old maids, but as sex objects, perhaps even as bimbos, especially when viewed through the pre-pro lens of ninety years ago:

But on the other hand, even the half-naked woman does not have to have a “babe” connotation. Consider, for example, this painting by Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) entitled Liberty Leading the People. One critic wrote that “to be led into a cloudless future by a beautiful half-naked woman is a dream that never fails of its effect.” Perhaps Lazarus and Adolph Scharff, the “proprietors” of Spring Hill Perfection Whiskey, had this painting in mind when they designed this shot glass:

Although women were not considered the equals of men when it came to voting in pre-pro America, at least some distillers treated them as equals on their shot glasses. Consider these three glasses; it seems clear that these two female equestrians are at least the equal of the male horse rider.

Sometimes women were portrayed with elegance and style:

Finally, we have the “wonder women” of shot glasses. These glasses depict women who could easily kick this “bachelor’s” butt:

What can we conclude from this “sociological study?” Perhaps one could argue that at least some designers of pre-pro shot glasses were the earliest proponents of women’s rights. Granted, some glasses depict women as “old maids” or sex objects. But more than a few glasses show woman as being either the equal of men or possibly even superior to men. Viva la Difference!

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