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Whiskey, Women, and War - How the Great War Shaped Jim Crow New Orleans

Whiskey, Women, and War

How the Great War Shaped Jim Crow New Orleans

By Brian Altobello
Hardcover : 9781496835093, 288 pages, 19 b&w illustrations, August 2021

An exciting and surprising history of the New Orleans home front during World War I


As the US entered World War I in 1917, a burst of patriotism in New Orleans collided with civil liberties. The city, due to its French heritage, shared a strong cultural tie to the Allies, and French speakers from Louisiana provided vital technical assistance to the US military during the war effort. Meanwhile, citizens of German heritage were harassed by unscrupulous, ill-trained volunteers of the American Protective League, ordained by the Justice Department to shield America from enemies within. As a major port, the wartime mobilization dramatically reshaped the cultural landscape of the city in ways that altered the national culture, especially as jazz musicians spread outward from the vice districts.

Whiskey, Women, and War: How the Great War Shaped Jim Crow New Orleans surveys the various ways the city confronted the demands of World War I under the supervision of a dynamic political machine boss. Author Brian Altobello analyzes the mobilization of the local population in terms of enlistments and war bond sales and addresses the anti-vice crusade meant to safeguard the American war effort, giving attention to Prohibition and the closure of the red-light district known as Storyville. He studies the political fistfight over women’s suffrage, as New Orleans’s Gordon sisters demanded the vote predicated on the preservation of white supremacy. Finally, he examines race relations in the city, as African Americans were integrated into the city’s war effort and cultural landscape even as Jim Crow was firmly established. Ultimately, the volume brings to life this history of a city that endured World War I in its own singular style.


"Drawing from ample contemporary sources, Brian Altobello paints a detailed picture of the city’s complex social geography through interwoven accounts of war-support efforts, anti-German policies, white supremacy and its resistance on the part of African Americans, the rise of the movements behind Prohibition and women’s suffrage, and the little-known activities of the American Protective League, whose wartime policing of local society was as fervent as it was constitutionally dubious. Overshadowed by its role in the Second World War, New Orleans during World War I is key to understanding the emergence of the modern city, and Altobello excels at bringing this story to light. "

- Richard Campanella, geographer, author, and professor at Tulane University School of Architecture

"This volume is replete with fresh detail, illuminating the political, personal, social, and cultural elements in a city that grappled with the era’s necessary restraints while it strove to maintain its freer appeal. "

- Miki Pfeffer, independent researcher at the Center for Mark Twain Studies and author of Southern Ladies and Suffragists: Julia Ward Howe and Women's Rights at the 1884 New Orleans World's Fair

"Whiskey, Women, and War stands as the lone text on New Orleans during the pivotal First World War experience. Here is an urban culture in transition torn between the traditions of legal prostitution, free-flowing booze, ethnic pluralism, and local machine politics on one hand and, on the other hand, the Progressive wave of anti-vice crusades, suffrage campaigns, 100 percent Americanism, and an encroaching federal government. "

- Anthony J. Stanonis, lecturer at Queen's University Belfast and author of Creating the Big Easy: New Orleans and the Emergence of Modern Tourism, 1918–1945

"Brian Altobello’s historical insight is razor sharp. A fresh look at fascinating times in New Orleans—Storyville, Prohibition, and World War I. The book also takes a hard look at the impact of Jim Crow laws. His vivid depictions of such key players in New Orleans history as Mayor Martin Behrman in the 1910s make for an exciting read."

- Peggy Scott Laborde, Emmy Award–winning producer for WYES-TV and coauthor of five books on New Orleans