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. http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx335.htm)

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. (http://www.thewildwest.org/cowboys/wildwestlegendarywomen/205-carrynation.html)

In over the top fashion Nation reportedly named her 3 favourite hatchets “Faith” “Hope” and “Charity”. (Maxey, Al. A Bulldog for Jesus. http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx335.htm)

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.

Carrie (Carry) Nation - Early Years


Carrie (Carry) Nation, the Battle Axe from yester-year had a prolific past and one that shouldn't be forgotten since she worked so hard to be noticed!

Born Carrie Amelia Moore, she grew to a commanding 6 feet and weighed approximately 175 pounds. Regarded as an activist, leader in the prohibition movement, Nation also fought for suffrage for women.

Nation’s first marriage was to Dr. Charles Gloyd, an educated man whom she loved. Nation’s parents protested the marriage as Gloyd was an alcoholic. Despite her parents concerns, Nation and Gloyd were married, and soon after she became pregnant with her first and only child. The worries of her parents came true as alcohol consumed her husband. She began to seek help for his addiction but was unsuccessful and as a last resort moved back with her parents. Six months after the birth of her daughter, Gloyd had died of alcoholism. (Schwarz, Frederic D. American Heritage; May/Jun2000, Vol. 51 Issue 3, p107, 2p.)

Her experience with her first husband certainly has an impact on her resolve later in the life. Carrie Nation took the name from her second husband, David Nation, a newspaper editor, minister of a Christian Church, and a lawyer. (Maxey, Al. A Bulldog for Jesus. http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx335.htm)

Her ambitions were evident in her contributions to grassroots movements surrounding the prohibition movement and various business ventures.

As the prohibition movement picked up steam in the 19-20th Carrie's voice increased. (Carrie Nation: Prohibitionist and Pioneer.Nutrition Health Review. .88 (Winter 2003) p7.)

Groups launched by Nation included the “Home Defenders Army”, amplifying the role of women at home by accenting how women defended the home. (Grace, Fran. Carry A. Nation: Retelling the Life. Indiana University Press, 2007. P. 17.)

Nation herself didn't restrict herself to matters of the household as she ran a successful hotel business which pulled her family out of poverty, but also turned friends and family against her as it was considered socially unacceptable for a woman to engage in business ventures outside of the family home. (Frances Grace Carver. With Bible in One Hand and Battle-Axe in the Other: Carry A. Nation as Religious Performer and Self-PromoterReligion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation , Vol. 9, No. 1 (Winter, 1999), pp. 36. Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture.)


Second husband David Nation eventually filed for divorce after 27 years of “mutually unfulfilling marriage”. David Nation disapproved of his wife’s aggressively violent actions (and his obvious inability to control his wife). (Frances Grace Carver, With Bible in One Hand and Battle-Axe in the Other: Carry A. Nation as Religious Performer and Self-Promoter, p. 39).

Despite her aggression it was reported Carrie became close to the slave families her father kept. She developed a respect and admiration for African Amiercan culture and religion. Despite her deep affection for the black community, she did not question the institution of slavery, nor did she believe in equality for black people. In an excerpt from her autobiography, Carry states,

“ They are a distinct race with characteristics which they need not wish to exchange. When a negro tries to imitate white folks, he is a mongrel...Never depart from your race lines and bearings, keep true to your nature, your simplicity, and happy disposition”.  
(Nation, Carry A. The Use and Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation. P. 24.)