Only the Lives Worth Saving


For JSTOR Daily, Tara Isabella Burton revisits Prohibition during the Coolidge administration, when the moral outrage that pushed for Prohibition didn’t extend to saving the lives of people dying from poisoned industrial alcohol:

…[the] New York of the 1920’s viewed certain populations as disposable. By entering the sphere of immorality, alcoholics, in the eyes of the Coolidge administration, forfeited their right to life. It’s telling that, even in death, there are two rules: one related to “respectable drunks” and one for the degenerates.

Michelle Vider is a writer based in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared/is forthcoming in The Toast, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Atlas and Alice, Baldhip Magazine, and others. Find her at or @meanchelled. More from this author →