Tuesday, June 26, 2012
At almost six feet tall and weighing 175 pounds, with her hatchet in tow and a decidedly no-nonsense look on her face, Nation inspired fear, if not respect, among the bartenders and drinkers she unapologetically terrorized. And she cared not one whit for how people laughed behind her back since she believed absolutely that God had called her to free the U.S. from what she saw as bondage to alcohol.
Growing up in a household marked by slave-holding, poverty, and mental illness, Nation first married a doctor who fairly rapidly died of alcoholism, leaving the heart-broken woman to raise their baby daughter by taking a job as a teacher. Marrying a lawyer the second time around, Nation focused on her family's needs for some years. Then, in the late 1800's, in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, Nation organized a local branch of the Women's Christian Temperance Union to campaign for Kansas' ban on the sale of liquor.
Instructed in a "vision" to save men from a drunkard's fate by smashing the bottles waiting behind the bars of Kansas taverns, Nation went forth into history, leaving her husband (who soon divorced her) behind. Sometimes she could get other women to go along on her missions of destruction, but supported or alone, Nation forged full steam ahead, arrested more than thirty times between 1900 and 1910 for what she called her "hatchetations."
Ultimately unsuccessful in her efforts to see alcohol a thing of the past in America, her mental stability in question off and on throughout her life, and regardless of what we might think of her today, Nation was certainly an in-your-face woman. Which is why so many taverns in the early 1900's had a sign in the window reading, "All Nations Welcome But Carrie."