Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Carrie Nation (1846-1911)

"You have put me in here a cub, but I will come out roaring like a lion, and I will make all hell howl!" ~Carrie Nation

Carrie Amelia Moore was an American woman who was a radical member of the temperance movement, which opposed alcohol before the advent of Prohibition. She is particularly noteworthy for attacking the property of alcohol-serving establishments (most often taverns) with a hatchet.

The daughter of slave owners George Nation and Mary Campbell Moore, Carrie was born on 25 Nov 1846 in Garrard County, KY. She married Dr. Charles Gloyd, a young physician (and by all accounts a severe alcoholic) on 21 Nov 1867. They separated shortly before the birth of their daughter, Charlien, on 27 Sep 1868. After Gloyd died less than a year later of alcoholism, Carrie developed a very passionate attitude against alcohol.

She remarried to David A. Nation in 1874. He became involved in the Jaybird-Woodpecker War and, as a result, was forced to move north to Medicine Lodge, KS where Carrie began her temperance work. She started a local branch of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and campaigned for the enforcement of Kansas' ban on the sales of liquor. Her methods escalated from simple protests to serenading saloon patrons with hymns accompanied by a hand organ, to greeting bartenders with pointed remarks such as, "Good morning, destroyer of men's souls."

Dissatisfied with the results of her efforts, Nation began to pray to God for direction. On June 5, 1900, she felt she received her answer in the form of a heavenly vision. As she described it:

The next morning I was awakened by a voice which seemed to me speaking in my heart, these words, "GO TO KIOWA," and my hands were lifted and thrown down and the words, "I'LL STAND BY YOU." The words, "Go to Kiowa," were spoken in a murmuring, musical tone, low and soft, but "I'll stand by you," was very clear, positive and emphatic. I was impressed with a great inspiration, the interpretation was very plain, it was this: "Take something in your hands, and throw at these places in Kiowa and smash them."

Responding to the revelation, she gathered several rocks – "smashers", she called them – and proceeded to Dobson's Saloon on June 7. Announcing "Men, I have come to save you from a drunkard's fate", she began to destroy the saloon's stock with her cache of rocks. After she similarly destroyed two other saloons in Kiowa, a tornado hit eastern Kansas, which she took as divine approval of her actions.

Carrie continued her destructive ways in Kansas, her fame spreading through her growing arrest record. After she led a raid in Wichita her husband joked that she should use a hatchet next time for maximum damage. Nation replied, "That is the most sensible thing you have said since I married you." Not surprisingly, the couple divorced in 1901, not having had any children.

Alone or accompanied by hymn-singing women she would march into a bar, and sing and pray while smashing bar fixtures and stock with a hatchet. Her actions often did not include other people, just herself. Between 1900 and 1910, she was arrested some 30 times for "hatchetations", as she came to call them. She paid her jail fines from lecture-tour fees and sales of souvenir hatchets. In April 1901 Nation came to Kansas City, Missouri, a city known for its wide opposition to the temperance movement, and smashed liquor in various downtown bars on 12th Street . She was arrested, hauled into court and fined $500 ($13,400 in 2011 dollars), although the judge suspended the fine so long as Nation never returned to Kansas City.

Carrie's anti-alcohol activities became widely known, with the slogan "All Nations Welcome But Carrie" becoming a bar-room staple. She published The Smasher's Mail, a biweekly newsletter, and The Hatchet, a newspaper. Later in life she exploited her name by appearing in vaudeville in the U.S. and music halls in Great Britain. A proud woman more given to sermonizing than entertaining, she sometimes found these poor venues for her proselytizing. One of the number of pre-World War I acts that "failed to click" with foreign audiences, Carrie was struck by an egg thrown by an audience member during one 1909 music hall lecture at the Canterbury Theatre of Varieties. Indignantly, "The Anti-Souse Queen" ripped up her contract and returned to the United States. Seeking profits elsewhere, she also sold photographs of herself, collected lecture fees, and marketed miniature souvenir hatchets.

Suspicious that President William McKinley was a secret drinker, Carrie applauded his 1901 assassination because drinkers "got what they deserved".

Near the end of her life Nation moved to Eureka Springs, AR, where she founded the home known as Hatchet Hall. Ill in mind and body, she collapsed during a speech in a Eureka Springs park and was taken to a hospital in Leavenworth, KS where she died on 9 Jun 1911.