Casias, Kelli M., “The Drunken Path: Discerning Women’s Voices and Participation in the Informal Economy of Illegal Manufacturing of Prohibition Alcohol in the Historical and Archaeological Record” (University of Montana, M.A., in anthropology, 2015).  https://scholarworks.umt.edu/etd/4544

Abstract

This thesis puts the Prohibition years in Anaconda and Butte, Montana, into historical, and sociocultural context to discover an engendered narrative of liquor law violators between the years 1923 and 1926 and to investigate the scope of the local informal, illegal, illicit economic systems dictating the distribution of illegal liquor during that era. The transference of the means and modes of production, as envisioned by Karl Marx, and collective social resistance serve as the theoretical frameworks for analysis and examination of three case studies. The first, Poacher Gulch is a remote mining site in western Montana, was the subject of archaeological excavation in 2006 and 2007, and a pollen analysis of soil samples collected in 2006 indicated someone grew corn near the upper rugged reaches of the gulch. A reanalysis of the site revealed that the features present, combined with a feasibility assessment of the garden, showed signatures of an economically viable alcohol distillation operation; engendered personal items in the artifact assemblage suggested the archaeological signature of a woman’s presence at the site. In two of the three the case studies of Anaconda and Butte, Montana, I compiled separate lists of each town’s offenders were using local primary sources such as newspaper accounts, and court records. Comparison of fines, jail terms, and property seizures of male and female home brewers and business owners indicated a systematic leniency towards women offenders. Significant differences in the socioeconomic status of women offenders was present and indicated that the distinct societal environments in which women navigated dictated how liquor laws were violated. Unequal applications of the law on the part of city officials indicated a tolerance of illegal activity for the financial exploitation of residents in both towns. An archaeological excavation of the “Cabbage Patch” (a working class neighborhood in Butte) was used to establish a theoretical methodology to quantify participation in the informal, illegal, illicit economies. The methodology could not be tested as few diagnostic cultural materials were found. The findings although general in nature, can be used as a starting point for a more realistic discourse about the nature of resistance.

 

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