Historically Speaking: The life of "Carry" Nation

Kathie Bell
Special to the Globe
Carrie "Carry" Nation fought against alcohol and for women's rights in southwest Kansas in the late 1800s and early 1900s, seen here with her trademark hatchet she used to take out saloons.

She didn't attack any saloons in our fair city, but she "operated" in places not too far from here.

Carrie Amelia Moore began life on November 25, 1846 in Garrard County, Kentucky. He parents were George and Mary Moore. The family moved to Texas and then to Missouri.

Her mother suffered from mental illness and the family moved a lot. Carrie's childhood education was spotty.

Still, Moore earned a certificate from a state teaching school. During the Civil War, Carrie tended to the wounded in the Kansas City area.

She married a physician, Charles Gloyd, in 1867. She had a daughter, Charlien in 1868, shortly after they separated. Gloyd died of alcoholism in 1869.

During this short marriage, the taste of alcohol became bitter to Carrie.

In 1874, Carrie married lawyer, journalist and minister, David Nation. They lived in Texas before moving to Medicine Lodge, Kansas in 1889. There David served as a minister and she ran a hotel. Supposedly after their move to Kansas, Carrie said to David she was happy to live in a "dry" state.

Unfortunately for those who liked to imbibe in this state, David replied there was still plenty of drinking going on in Kansas.

That set Carrie off. First she started a local branch of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

In addition to railing against alcohol, Nation fought for women's voting rights and women's rights in general.

Things didn't end with mere words. At first her group of "Home Defenders" sang hymns and gave sermons as they barged into local saloons. But things soon got more violent.

In 1900, Nation, along with her Home Defenders, attacked a local "pharmacy" which was actually a saloon. Using hand held rocks or "smashers," the party removed a keg of spirits, smashed it and burned it.

In June of 1900 Carrie, armed with a brickbat, and her gang attacked six bars in Kiowa County.

In December of that year, she begin carrying her famous hatchet when her and her followers destroyed a fancy bar at a hotel in Wichita, ironically named the Hotel Carey.

After raiding a saloon in Enterprise, Kansas, she turned her attention to Topeka where numerous saloons catered to state legislators.

By this time, Nation was "famous" for her actions.

In late January, 1901, The WCTU held their convention there. Nation met with the Governor and had some peaceful encounters with some the City's "jointists." Soon the Home Defenders, led by Carrie smashed their first Topeka establishment the "Senate Saloon."

Between 1900 and 1910 Carrie was arrested at least 30 times for her antics. She paid her jail fines from the sale of souvenir hatchets and from lecture fees. She also was an active writer publishing newsletters with names such as "The Smashers Mail,” "The Hatcher" and the "Home Defender."

At some point her name went from "Carrie" to "Carry" as in Carry the Nation. During all this, in 1901, husband David divorced her on grounds of desertion.

Late in life, she devoted her time to giving lectures and appearing in Vaudeville in her temperance persona. As her health declined, she moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas where she resided in "Hatchet Hall."

In addition to being her residence, it was a boarding house for widows, battered women and college girls.

After collapsing while giving a speech in Eureka Springs, she was taken to a hospital in Leavenworth, Kansas where she died on June 9, 1911.