Carrie A. Nation (November 25,1846–June 9, 1911) was a member of the temperance movement—which opposed alcohol in pre-Prohibition America—particularly noted for promoting her viewpoint through vandalism. On many occasions, Nation would enter an alcohol-serving establishment and attack the bar with a hatchet. She has been the topic of numerous books, articles and even a 1966 opera by Douglas Moore, first performed at the University of Kansas.
Nation was a large woman nearly 6 feet (180 cm) tall and weighing 175 pounds (80 kg). She described herself as "a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn't like," and claimed a divine ordination to promote temperance by smashing up bars.
The spelling of her first name is ambiguous and both Carrie and Carry are considered correct. Official records say Carrie which Nation used most of her life, but Carry 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.
Many of Nation's family members suffered from mental illness. Her mother went through periods where she had delusions of being Queen Victoria, and young Carrie often retired to the slave quarters as a result.
In 1865, she met Dr. Charles Gloyd, and they were married on November 21, 1867. Gloyd was by all accounts a severe alcoholic. They separated shortly before the birth of their daughter, Charlien, and he died less than a year later in 1869. Nation attributed her passion for fighting liquor to her failed first marriage to Gloyd.
It was while in Medicine Lodge that she began her temperance work. Nation started a local branch of the Women's Christian Temperance Union and campaigned for the enforcement of Kansas' ban on the sales of liquor. Her methods escalated from simple protests to greeting bartenders with pointed remarks like "Good morning, destroyer of men's souls", to serenading saloon patrons with hymns on a hand organ.
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, Nation gathered several rocks – "smashers", she called them – and proceeded to Dobson's Saloon. 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.
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. Between 1900 and 1910, she was arrested some 30 times for "hatchetations," as she came to call them. Nation paid her jail fines from lecture-tour fees and sales of souvenir hatchets. In April of 1901 Nation came to Kansas City, Missouri, a city known for its wide opposition to the temperance movement, and smashed liquor in various bars on 12th street in Downtown Kansas City. She was promptly arrested, fined $500 ($11,500 in 2006 dollars), and ordered by a judge to leave Kansas City and never return.
Nation's anti-alcohol activities became well known, with the slogan "All Nations Welcome But Carrie" becoming a bar-room staple. She published a biweekly newsletter called The Smasher's Mail, a newspaper titled The Hatchet, and later in life exploited her name by appearing in vaudeville, selling photographs of herself, charging to lecture, and marketing miniature hatchets.
Nation applauded the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901 because she believed that he secretly drank alcohol and that drinkers always got what they deserved.
She collapsed during a speech in a Eureka Springs park and was taken to a hospital in Leavenworth, Kansas. She died there on June 9, 1911 and was buried in an unmarked grave in Belton City Cemetery in Belton, Missouri. The Women's Christian Temperance Union later erected a stone inscribed "Faithful to the Cause of Prohibition, She Hath Done What She Could."