On the morning of July 8, 1856, two hundred women, three men and their supporters gathered in Rockport’s Dock Square and unfurled a banner with a black hatchet, determined to destroy all the alcohol in the town.
The women had lost patience with the men of the town, mostly fishermen, who spent their days drinking “demon rum” instead of working. The leaders of the mob included a 75-year-old seamstress named Hannah Jumper and four other women who had secretly planned the raids in advance.
On that morning the women set out with hatchets and other instruments they had hidden beneath their shawls, and began raiding houses, barns, and any establishment that sold liquor without a license. The locations had been marked with a small white cross during the previous evenings. The raids continued for five hours, and fifty barrels of rum in 13 different locations were drug out into the streets and split open, an estimated $700 in damage.
One of the targets, a man named Jim Brown, sued the women in court, but the verdict was returned in favor of the women, and Brown was ordered to pay the women’s court fees.
In 1919, the manufacture and sale of all alcoholic beverages was prohibited by the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was repealed by the 21st Amendment 14 years later. Rockport, MA remained a dry town until 2005, and liquor stores are still not allowed.
- Hannah and the hatchet gang: Rockport’s revolt against rum by Eleanor C. Parsons.
- Antique Houses of Gloucester by Prudence Fish.