Militant Temperance Leader: Carry Nation Part 1

About the militant temperance leader Carry Nation and her place in United States history in abolishing alcohol.

CARRY NATION (1846-1911). Militant temperance leader.

Carry Nation, the saloon-smashing Amazon at the turn of the century, was born in Kentucky. She was well equipped by Providence for the career of destruction to which the Lord summoned her: She stood nearly 6' tall and weighed more than 175 lbs.

Carry learned from personal experience that whiskey could destroy a man's life. After marrying a physician at the age of 21, she watched helplessly while her husband drank himself to death within 2 years.

By the time she remarried in 1879, Carry had determined to devote her life to a crusade against alcohol. Her new husband, David Nation, was an itinerant preacher and lawyer who wandered with his new wife from town to town in the Midwest. When they settled in Medicine Lodge, Kans., Carry was elected county chairman of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.

At this point in history, Kansas was technically a "dry" State, but the law was generally disregarded and saloons flourished in every city and town. Carry Nation was naturally disgusted at such hypocrisy and she wrote passionate letters of protest to the governor, the attorney general, the sheriff of Barber County, and to various local newspapers. When she received not a single response, she decided to take matters into her own hands. After a period of prayer and divination, she heard a voice from above, which she later described in her autobiography. "Take something in your hands," she was told, "and throw at those places and smash them!"

Carry knew how to follow orders. The next day--June 5, 1900--singing hymns and full of holy fire, she picked up a collection of bricks and stones from her backyard and wrapped them in old newspapers. Then she hitched up the buggy and drove to the town of Kiowa, nearly 20 mi. away.

As she walked into one of the town's saloons, the men at the bar turned in amazement to see this 54-year-old woman, dressed in black, invading their all-male inner sanctum.

"Men," Carry announced, "I have come to save you from a drunkard's fate!" Without further ado, she began heaving her stones with stunning accuracy. Within minutes, every bottle in the place had been smashed, not to mention the mirror behind the bar and both of the front windows.

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