Monday, February 6, 2012

The Old Battle Axe - Carrie Nation Hatchet Campaign

Despite some work in the suffrage of women, Nation is particularly regarded for his aggressive fight for prohibition. Her violence gained her notoriety with authorities and citizens alike.

Carry joined the temperance movement and helped establish a chapter of the WCTU in Medicine Lodge. She spoke out against drinking, tobacco use, and immodest dress. She also worked as a prison evangelist. She believed alcohol was the root of evil and the cause for family breakdown, likely directly correlated to her experience with her first husband who died an alcoholic. (Maxey, Al. A Bulldog for Jesus.

Although her position on modesty, booze, and smoking, those were (and still are) normal items for conservatives to echo. It was the way she proclaimed her message that got her noticed.

Nation became an avid protestor against illegal saloons in Kansas. Prohibition was legislated in Kansas from 1881-1948. A number of saloons continued to operate within the state, after all, it was good business. Unwilling to let the spread of 'evil' to proliferate, Nation began campaigning against saloons by first petitioning the government, then speaking in public venues, and of course teaching the evils of alcohol in Sunday School. She also used her gifts as a leader participating in leadership of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. (Frances Grace Carver, With Bible in One Hand and Battle-Axe in the Other: Carry A. Nation as Religious Performer and Self-Promoter, p. 37)

Things took a turn for the worse when Nation claimed a vision from God compelled her to physically strike out against the establishments. She began by throwing rocks, but eventually turned to the infamous <b>hatchet</b>. Legends have it Nation would enter a bar and begin indiscriminately destroying the premises with a hatchet in one hand and a bible in the other. (

In over the top fashion Nation reportedly named her 3 favourite hatchets “Faith” “Hope” and “Charity”. (Maxey, Al. A Bulldog for Jesus.

She was arrested approximately 30 times for her “hatchetations”, acquired numerous fines for civil disturbances, and paid off ensuing fines with profits from the sale of small hatchet pins. (Nation, Carry A. P. 75)

The hatchet was symbolic of building a home (obviously without alcohol), and cutting out sin. (Carver, p. 53) Nation believed that rocks and bricks were divine tools that had been used by biblical figures, however she did eventually incorporate the use of the hatchet into her regular “smashings”. To communicate her message to a wider audience Nation worked to distribute the “Smashers Mail” newsletter, as well as “The Hatchet” newspaper.

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