|With Bible reading and "hatchetation" the 6-foot tall, |
175-pound Carry Nation made an impression.
Born this day in 1846: Carry Nation (1846–1911), temperance advocate most remembered for her hatchet-wielding assaults on illegal barrooms
The temperance movement in the United States was motivated as much by a desire to reduce alcolohol-related domestic violence and poverty as it was by the reform era from which it sprang. The same was true for the activism of Carry Nation. Nation was born Carry Amelia Moore in Kentucky in 1846. In 1867 Nation, a teacher, married a doctor named Charles Goyd. Goyd was an alcoholic, and before many years passed she fled the marriage with her young daughter. Goyd soon died of complications from his alcoholism. Nation remarried in 1877, to David Nation, a minister and lawyer. The family eventually settled in Kansas. Carry Nation worked as a prison visitor, hoping to spread the Gospel and abstinence to criminals.
In 1890 Kansas loosened its prohibition laws, making access to liquor more readily available. As it was, alcohol was easy to obtain at drug stores, and illegal joints operated openly. In 1892 she founded a local branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She made it her mission to shut down illegal barrooms. With a small posse of vigalntes from the WCTU, Nation would enter an illegal barroom. When prayers, hymns, and exhortations would not convince bar owners to shutter their businesses, Nation, armed with bricks and—more famously, a hatchet—proceeded to smash up the place. Since the places were not legal, she argued that she had license to wreck them. She destroyed barrels of liquor, furniture, glasses, bottles, mirrors, and lewd pin-ups of women. In her work Nation also established a shelter for wives of alchololics and raised funds to support it.
Nation became quite the celebrity. Lecture fees, publication of temperance journals, and especially sales of silver brooches shaped like a hatchet helped support her—to the tune of $300 per week—and pay the many fines she was charged. She was at times shot at, beat up, and often arrested (30 times), but remained defiant. The WCTU awarded her a medal as the “Bravest Woman in the World.” Eventually, though, the movement soured on her vigilantism. The suffragists, too, shied away from her support. After she retired from public life she ran a school from her home, which also served as a boarding house for homeless women.
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