Carrie Nation

(Deb) Welcome back and we’re going to talk about one of the most interesting Kansans in history and that would be Miss Carrie Nation. (Frank) Carrie Nation. (Deb) You know and I said the worst thing about her one time. We had a Kansas Day party and we had everybody dressed up as Kansas characters. And one of my friends dressed up as Carrie Nation. And I said, I’m sorry, she’s just too ugly to impersonate. And I feel so badly for saying that about her. But you know the days before Maybelline and Mary Kay and all that stuff. God bless her. But she was an incredible woman with an incredible legacy and a hatchet. (Frank) And a hatchet. Yes. (Deb) A woman with a hatchet, you… (Frank) Chopping at bars and breaking bottles and chasing guys out of the bar. (Deb) Chopping up bars. (Frank) Go home. (Deb) She had good reason. She really did. Let’s take a look at her life and legacy.

Carrie Nation arrived in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, after her first husband died of alcoholism and her second husband failed in farming. David Nation was a minister and she operated a hotel, very well according to most accounts. She organized a chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and that is when she began to make history. She campaigned to enforce liquor laws, having observed first hand the destructive impact of excessive drinking on families. Nation and her “Home Defenders” raided pharmacies, saloons and bars as far away as Wichita and then headed for Topeka. When Carrie arrived in Topeka in January of 1901 she found the legislature in session and plenty of saloons operating illegally, often patronized by the legislators. The Kansas Christian temperance Union was holding its state convention in the capital city as well, providing a supportive crowd for both sides of the issue. Carrie was a curiosity and most were anxious to watch her in action. She visited the governor, imploring him to take actions against the sale of liquor. He was non-committal at best and said that women should remember their place and not create disturbances. Saloons were barricaded and braced for her attacks. Those attacks came a few days later when the hatchet-wielding Carrie started with the Senate Saloon and hit others in its wake. She was arrested. In fact, she was arrested 30 different times during her career and her husband filed for divorce on ground of desertion. Eventually she dropped the hatchet and picked up a pen, campaigning for women’s suffrage and enforcing liquor laws as editor of the Smasher’s Mail. She found great success on the lecture circuit and sold souvenir photographs, hatchet pins and “Home Defender” buttons to fund her cause. She died in 1911, just a year before women got the right to vote. Her tombstone reads She hath done what she could. Her home in Medicine Lodge was named a National Landmark in 1976.

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