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Posted: 10/27/2013 12:08:56 AM EST
Prohibition, widely enacted in the early 20th century in the US and northern Europe, is often brought up as an example of female activism and a consequence of suffrage, but long before the introduction of universal suffrage similar restrictionist movements had almost resulted in heavy penalties for, of all things, drinking coffee.

In late 1675, King Charles II of England banned the sale and consumption of coffee in “a proclamation for the suppression of coffee-houses.” Fortunately, he backed down a couple days before the ban was to take effect. Coffee had, at that point, become very popular amongst the British intelligentsia, spawning a number of all-male coffee clubs where men would gather to discuss philosophy and politics. Apparently, Charles wasn’t all that pleased about the activities of the intellectually stimulated men, who were accused of spreading dissent throughout the realm.

However, there had already been political pressure from another group to ban coffee, which is perhaps what gave Charles the initial push toward banning the substance.

It turns out that a group of proto-feminists had approached the king demanding that he shut down the coffee houses a year earlier, as the elixir was held to be causing their husbands to become snotty, “Frenchified” fellows who had lost all interest in sex (with their wives).
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