|Carrie Nation was born as Carrie Moore, November 25, 1846 in Garrard County, Kentucky Her marriage to |
Charles Gloyd in 1867 marked Carrie’s entrance into the world of women and families affected by alcohol.
Gloyd, her first and only true love, appeared at her parents’ house as a boarder. They fell in love, but her
parents disapproved because Gloyd drank. The couple married anyway. Gloyd’s drinking became worse. Pregnant
with their only child, Carry returned to her parents’ home. Gloyd protested, “Pet, if you leave me, I will be a
dead man in six months.” He continued to drink, and his prediction came true. He died at the age of twenty-nine
leaving behind a twenty-three-year-old wife and an infant daughter. Carry worked to support her daughter,
mother-in-law, and herself. At one point when their situation became more difficult than usual she turned to
her God. She asked God to direct her to a second husband able to support her and her family. She felt her
faith led her to David Nation, a minister, lawyer, and newspaperman. Unfortunately, David Nation did not find
success in his occupations, and Carry worked once again to support her family. Life was not easy as the family
often had little money to live on, her daughter spent many childhood years seriously ill, and she realized that
her marriage to David Nation was not a happy one and they eventually divorced. Her personality, religious
beliefs, and marriages to Gloyd and Nation all formed Carry Nation into the reformer for which she became
known. Through most of her life she worked to improve the lives of others. Her regard for and sensitivity to
blacks, Jews, and Catholics far exceeded that of the average citizen of the period. She had a warmth, joy, and
intelligence about her that often impressed people around her. Carry Nation was involved in a variety of reform
causes including prohibition, anti-smoking, women’s health, and suffrage.
Carry A. Nation’s prohibition reform efforts took place after Kansas had ratified its prohibition amendment in
1880 and before the federal prohibition amendment became a reality in 1919. Initially she worked within the
law to close down saloons in Medicine Lodge, Kansas and other communities. In June of 1900 a voice in a dream
inspired her to use different tactics. The voice told her to take something in her hands, throw it at saloons in
Kiowa, Kansas and smash them. She began throwing rocks but quickly switched to a hatchet, a tool that could be
used more than once. Nation’s goals were twofold: the destruction of illegal property and the conversion of
saloon keepers. After a verbal confrontation between Carry Nation and a group of saloon owners in Kansas City
a reporter wrote, “These saloon men were strongly moved by the talk Mrs. Nation gave them. She meant what
she said – they understood that. They knew she was not resentful and did not despise them just as they
understood how resolved she was to make them close their joints”. Once while she spoke on a street in Topeka,
a man ran from a candy store and handed her several small pewter hatchet pins. He suggested, “Sell them to
this crowd and you can pay your costs and fines this month.” The crowd quickly snatched them up. She continued
the practice to pay her fines, her railroad fares, her hotel bills, and to support a home for drunkards’ wives.
She carried the pins in a leather handbag, which appears in many photographs of her. Carry’s efforts to compel
the enforcement of prohibition laws brought her both notoriety and ridicule. She found herself in jail a number
of times after using force to make her point. Eventually she traveled the lecture circuit speaking in a variety
of settings from college campuses to vaudeville. She used her notoriety to promote her causes. While some
people complained about the places she chose to speak, she believed that she needed to go where those people
were who needed her. After years of struggling to bring about change, Carry collapsed during a speech in a
Eureka Springs, Arkansas Park and was taken to a hospital in Leavenworth, Kansas. She died there on June 9,
1911 and was buried in an unmarked grave in Belton City Cemetery in Belton, Missouri.
The Women's Christian Temperance Union later erected a stone inscribed
"Faithful to the Cause of Prohibition, She Hath Done What She Could."
Her home in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, the Carrie Nation House, was bought by the Women's Christian
Temperance Union in the 1950s and was declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1976.
Carry A. Nation:
“The Famous and Original Bar Room Smasher"
Kansas State Historical Society 2001