Carry Nation’s Hatchetation

Carry Nation

She was a big woman—six feet, 175 pounds—and she could wield an axe like a lumberman, which she did time and again to break up salons in her drive against “demon rum, tobacco, corsets, short skirts and masturbation.” The woman born Carrie Amelia Moore so believed that God wanted her to “Carry A. Nation,” that she changed the spelling of her first name. And if she had to go it alone much of the time, fine with her. She’d later reveal it was her alcoholic first husband, who abandoned her and their daughter, that led to her obsession. But she also had a righteous cause: she and second husband, David Nation, were living in Kansas, the first state to ban alcohol in its state constitution. And yet, the state was filled with saloons. Carry was determined to shut them all down, first by legal means and when that was slow going, in 1900 she reverted to violent attacks. In one assault, she destroyed Wichita’s finest hotel bar and went to jail for three weeks. In the year she traveled with an axe, she was arrested some 30 times and racked up hundreds of dollars in fines. While she had some supporters, many saw her approach as too extreme and other prohibitionists often stayed away from her. She went on the lecture circuit to pay off the fines, even touring Europe. One of her fundraising techniques was to sell pewter hatchet pins! She lived in Kansas until 1905, when she moved to Oklahoma Territory and helped it enter the nation with a dry constitution. She died in 1911. Her tombstone is inscribed, “She Hath Done What She Could.”

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