Medicinal Purposes Only

 New Musical – Medicinal Purposes Only – Background and Synopsis


Although the town and characters are fictional, the events of this two act musical are from the historical accounts of the suffrage struggle (By Carrie Chapman Catt, suffragette and founder of the League of Women Votes), especially the opposition posed by the alcoholic beverage industry which delayed women getting the right to vote for many years.  It is a lighthearted look at a revolution that killed no one, took no prisoners, but was achieved by peaceful resistance and persuasion long before other factions used those tactics. 

Years before the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, some western states passed laws allowing the women of their states to vote.   The passage of these laws met stiff resistance from the distilling and brewing industries.  They knew that Congress would probably pass Prohibition and they feared if the women got the vote there would be no hope of ever repealing it.  Through their national associations they taxed saloon keepers a percentage of their sales and used that money to fight suffrage any where in the country where it was on the ballot.  They sent in big time speakers like William Jennings Bryan to pound the Bible and rail against suffrage and if it came up for a vote they computed the number needed to defeat and the saloon keeper was given a quota of men to bring to the polls to vote against it.  If he failed to pay the tax or bring the men to the polls they cut off his supply and he was out of business. 


In this play, in 1918, in the mythical town of Calico, Oklahoma there is a mom and pop saloon.  Pop has died and mom is carrying on with the help of a grown son.  The liquor and brewers’ association representative comes to town to oppose woman suffrage which was on the ballot that year in Oklahoma.  He doesn’t talk to mom, but goes to the son.  She finds out about it and the battle is on, helped by the young suffragette who has come to town to rally the women and educate the men.  The name of the saloon is “Medicinal Purposes Only” and the bartender is always addressed as “Doctor.” 

This play requires only one major set: other settings are played before the curtain or in the audience.  Cast is 10, 5 men and 5 women of various ages.  The music is in the range of community theater performer abilities.  

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