Carrie A. Nation (November 25, 1846 – June 9, 1911) – Activist, Organizer and Leader of the Temperance Movement
Introduction: Carrie Amelia Nation was perhaps the most famous person to emerge from the temperance movement—the battles against alcohol in pre-Prohibition America—due to her habit of attacking saloons with a hatchet. She has been the topic of numerous books, articles and even an opera, titled Carry Nation, which premiered in 1966 at the University of Kansas.
Born Carrie Moore in Garrard County, Kentucky, Nation attributed her passion for fighting liquor to a failed first marriage to an alcoholic. She got her myth-making last name from her second husband, David Nation. The spelling of her first name is ambiguous; both “Carrie” and “Carry” are considered correct. Official records list the former, and she herself used that spelling most of her life; the latter was used by her father in the family bible. Upon beginning her campaign against liquor in the early 20th century, she adopted the name Carry A. Nation mainly for its value as a slogan, and had it registered as a trademark in the state of Kansas.
Carrie Nation’s Career: Carrie Amelia was born November 25, 1846 to George Moore, a plantation owner, and Mary Campbell in Gerrard County, Kentucky. Carry was not a strong child, but she learned to read and spent much time with the Bible. In 1867, she married a young physician, Charles Gloyd, in Belton, Missouri. Unfortunately, he was a heavy drinker. The union produced a sickly child, Charlien, whose condition her mother attributed to her husband’s drinking. She left him because of his habit and inability to earn a steady living; he died six months later. To survive, Carrie turned to teaching and keeping rooms; she would be more successful with the latter.
In 1877, Carrie married David Nation, a preacher, attorney and editor 19 years her senior. They moved to Texas, then to Medicine Lodge, Kansas in 1889, where David became pastor of the Christian Church. Carry taught Sunday School, saw to the needs of poor people, became a jail evangelist and helped to establish a local chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She spoke out not only about the evils of drink, but tobacco and women’s immodest dress as well.
Carry Nation’s religious convictions sharpened. She began to experience visions and a sense of divine protection. The latter seemed to be confirmed when her rooming house was left untouched by a town fire in 1889. She even believed her name, Carry A. Nation, was foreordained. Back in 1880, Kansas residents had voted for prohibition, but the law was largely ignored by saloon keepers. They operated openly, but Nation would change all that. First she prayed in front of an establishment in 1890. She struck at her first saloon on June 1, 1900. Initially, she used rocks, bricks and other objects for these attacks, later she turned to the hatchet. Nearly six feet tall and a strapping 180lbs., the determined woman closed the saloons in Medicine Lodge.
Nation responded with alacrity to appeals from citizens of other towns to close their saloons. She entered states where liquor sales were legal. Her behavior provoked a tremendous uproar and sent her to jail repeatedly for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace. Later, fines were paid by the sale of pewter hatchet pins. Nation wielded her voice as effectively as her hatchet, eloquently speaking her mind and inspiring others on numerous occasions. Even sworn enemies acknowledged her success with compelling enforcement of prohibition laws and spreading her message.
The Nations were divorced in 1901 and David died in 1903. Carry completed her last speaking tour in 1910, owing to failing health. She then purchased property in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. This included a farm with a building she dubbed “Hatchet Hall,” which she intended to become a school of prohibition. She crumpled on the stage in January 1911 during what would be her final oration. In June, Carry Nation died isolated and poor in Leavenworth, Kansas. Her remains were buried in an unmarked grave in Belton City (Missouri) Cemetery. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union later erected a stone inscribed “Faithful to the Cause of Prohibition, She Hath Done What She Could.”
Her home in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, the Carrie Nation House, was bought by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in the 1950s and was declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1976. A spring just across the street from the house is named after her.
Kansas Historical Society
How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Social Welfare History Project (2011). Carrie A. Nation (November 25, 1846-June 9, 1911) – Activist, organizer and leader of the Temperance Movement. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved [date accessed] from http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/people/nation-carrie-a/