Drunken Women

Drunkenness was a problem that confronted society throughout much of the 19th century. It was the cause of endless misery, as well as being the driving force behind much of the violence that plagued society.

Terrible as the scourge of intemperance was seen to be among the menfolk of the era, there was an even greater revulsion towards the plight of drunken women.

This increase – or, to be more exact, the perceived increase in female intoxication – was one of the reasons why there was an initial revulsion towards the lifestyles led by the victims of Jack the Ripper, as each one of them was revealed to have been afflicted with alcoholism.

A group of women drinking.
A Cosy Compartment In An East End Pub.


On Thursday the 4th of October, 1883, The Sunderland Daily Echo And Shipping Gazette, published an article which was, to say the least, extremely judgemental of drunkenness amongst the women of all classes:-

The Spartans, we are told, made their Helots drunk in order that the spectacle of reeling slaves might excite in young people repugnance to indulgences which so degraded a man.

In these days, we may witness sights incomparably more disgraceful to humanity. We may see women moving in respectable society shamelessly drunk in the streets.


It is difficult to conceive anything more painful than the spectacle of a well-dressed woman – a wife and mother it may be -meandering along the public streets in broad daylight, staring vacantly at shocked passers-by, and perhaps venting a drunkard’s indignation in ribaldry and curses.

We are not now referring to that nameless class of women with whose profession drunkenness is in perfect harmony.


Only yesterday we witnessed two ladies – we use the term in the ordinary sense – almost helplessly intoxicated, pursuing, in spite of earnest attempts to the contrary, a sadly devious course along streets in the most frequented parts of the town.

On Sunday night there might have been seen on the platform at the Central Station three comparatively young women, evidently of respectable connection, inflamed with drink.


But it is needless to particularise instances.

None who walks about with his eyes open can fail to be struck with the many sad proofs of the growing evil of insobriety among women.

How much more misery and lasting harm wrought by a drunken mother than by a drunken father we need not stop to conjecture.


Certain it is that the future of every country depends largely upon the women.

“France,” said Napoleon, “needs good mothers more than good soldiers.”

This need is common to all nations, and it is not pleasant to think what England may have to suffer if the alarming increase of drunkenness among women be not checked.