American women had few political rights in the 19th and early 20th century.
Today it is hard to imagine that a female adult could be without legal rights to property, wages and her own children. But during those times, women depended on husbands for economic livelihood.
An 1872 quote from the Supreme Court of the United States, refusing Myra Bradwell the right to be a practicing lawyer in Illinois, summarizes the situation for American women at the time:
It is true that many women are unmarried and not affected by any of the duties, complications, and incapacities arising out of the married state, but these are exceptions to the general rule. The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator. And the rules of civil society must be adapted to the general constitution of things, and cannot be based upon exceptional cases.
Men, spending household income on liquor, created severe domestic problems. Not surprisingly, the husbands of several leading female abolitionists were either alcoholics or had already died from alcohol-related diseases.
Why not get rid of the substance that devastated lives when men "took to the drink?"
Long before the 18th Amendment went into effect in 1920, women attempted to use non-political means to address the alcohol problem. People like Frances Willard (one of the most famous women of the 19th century) dedicated their careers to the "temperance" cause. Some of those abolitionists employed drastic means to make their points.
On the 27th of December, 1900, she smashed the bar at Wichita’s best hotel - the Carey. She spent three weeks in jail for that escapade. Soon she was known as the "Bar Room Smasher."
Although women didn’t have the right to vote, they were clearly making their points. Popular songs helped to spread the word that liquor was ruining lives and harming families.