Militant Temperance Leader: Carry Nation Part 2

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 resolved to move on to bigger and better things, and turned her sights to "the murder mills of the metropolis of Wichita." Her 1st target was the most elegant bar in all of Kansas, located in the basement of the Hotel Carey. This establishment featured a huge, $1,500 plate-glass mirror, surrounded by hundreds of sparkling electric lights. There was also a popular painting ("for men only") entitled Cleopatra at the Bath. When Carry Nation beheld this lewd work of art she stopped dead in her tracks. She reflected--so she wrote later--that woman is stripped of everything by the saloons. Her husband is torn from her. She is robbed of her sons. Then they take away her clothes and her dignity. Trembling with rage, Carry approached the bartender.

"Young man," she demanded, "what are you doing in this hellhole?"

"I'm sorry, madam," he answered, "but we do not serve ladies."

"Serve me?" screamed Carry. "Do you think I'd drink your hellish poison?" She waved a furious finger at Cleopatra. "Take that filthy thing down and close this murder mill!"

When her request was ignored, Carry set to work. A barrage of rocks shattered the immense mirror and tore the offending canvas. "Glory to God!" she shouted, "Peace on earth, good will to men!"

Terrified, the drinkers and bartender managed to escape through the rear doorway as Carry began overturning tables and slashing chairs. She sent row upon row of bottles crashing to the floor. When Detective Massey of the Wichita Police arrived on the scene, she had lifted one of the finest and biggest brass cuspidors (spittoons) in Kansas to the top of the cherrywood bar and was beating it furiously.

"Madam," said the officer, "I must arrest you for defacing property."

"Defacing?" she screamed. "I am defacing nothing! I am destroying!"

In the trial that followed, many Kansas citizens rallied to Carry Nation's defense. After all, the establishments she had dismantled were supposed to be illegal under Kansas law. When the charges against her were finally dropped, Carry had won a moral victory as well as a good deal of national publicity.

In the next year alone, Carry launched more than 20 successful raids and became the most notorious female in the U.S. The mere mention of her name was enough to strike terror in a saloonkeeper's heart and when she arrived in a town the taverns would either close down for the day or hire a special detachment of armed guards. As her rampage continued, Carry perfected her technique. She began to use metal hatchets in her work of destruction and these hatchets soon became her trademark. She was arrested more than 30 times for her escapades, and she paid her fines with proceeds from the sale of souvenir hatchets inscribed with her name. During some of her raids, this motherly woman accomplished prodigious feats of strength: She tore icebox doors clean off their hinges, and once ripped a huge cash register off its moorings on a bar, hoisted it over her head, and sent it sailing halfway across the room. On one occasion, a courageous barkeep attempted to defend his premises at gunpoint. Carry, undaunted, swung at his head with her hatchet and the foolhardy male dropped his weapon and ran.

As her notoriety grew, Carry took to the lecture circuit, speaking across the U.S. on the vices of alcohol. She even began publication of a weekly newspaper, The Hatchet. Women throughout the country were inspired by Carry's example, and saloon-smashers sprang up in many cities. Few, however, could rival Carry in terms of devastating effectiveness.

When she was 63 years old, she undertook one of her most ambitious raids in Washington, D.C., wreaking havoc in the famous barroom of the Union depot with the aid of 3 hatchets named "Faith, Hope, and Charity."

Carry's last raid took place in Butte, Mont., in 1910. A few months later she collapsed while speaking against saloons and saloonkeepers in Eureka Spring, Ark., and died in Evergreen Hospital, Leavenworth, Kans., on June 9, 1911.

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