Carrie Amelia Nation, later Carry A. Nation (November 25, 1846 – June 9, 1911), was a member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which was formed to combat the debilitating influence of alcohol on families in pre-Prohibition America. She has been the topic of numerous books, articles, and a 1966 opera at the University of Kansas.
Born Carrie Moore in Garrard County, Kentucky, Nation got her myth-making last name from her second husband, David Nation. Nation's first husband, Charles Gloyd, suffered from alcoholism. This caused the dissolution of their marriage and his early death the following year. Due to this experience Nation became a crusader and inspired a whole generation of women who followed in her footsteps. She voiced her convictions thus:
A woman is stripped of everything by them [saloons]. Her husband is torn from her; she is robbed of her sons, her home, her food, and her virtue… Truly does the saloon make a woman bare of all things!
Carrie Amelia Moore was born and grew up in Garrard County, Kentucky. She was in ill health throughout her childhood. Her family experienced several financial setbacks and moved several times, finally settling in Belton, Missouri, where she would eventually be buried in that town's cemetery.
It is said that many of her family members suffered from mental illness. Her mother experienced delusional periods in which she believed she was Queen Victoria. As a result, young Carrie was often tended to in the slave quarters.
In 1865, Carrie Moore met Dr. Charles Gloyd and the two fell in love. They were married on November 21, 1867. Carrie did not realize Gloyd had a drinking problem (in fact he was a severe alcoholic) until after the marriage took place. Terribly heartbroken, she understood that for the sake of their unborn child, she would have to separate from her husband. Their separation took place shortly before the birth of their daughter, Charlien. Gloyd died less than a year later, in 1869. This brief, unhappy marriage fueled her disdain for alcohol; Nation later attributed her passion for fighting liquor to her experience with the heavy-drinking Gloyd.
Carrie Moore Gloyd acquired a teaching certificate, but was unable to support herself in this field. Taking care of her daughter and the mother of her former husband was a burden she could not handle alone. She prayed to God to send her a husband. Soon after, she met Dr. David A. Nation, an attorney, minister and newspaper editor, nineteen years her senior. They were married on December 27, 1877. She believed he was the answer to her prayers and married him even though many counseled against it due to the difference in their ages.
The Nations purchased a 1,700 acre cotton plantation on the San Bernard River in Brazoria County, Texas. However, neither knew much about farming and the venture failed. Dr. Nation became involved in the Jaybird-Woodpecker War, necessitating a move back north in 1889, this time to Medicine Lodge, Kansas, where he became the Preacher at a Christian church. Carrie ran a successful hotel.
The debilitating effect of alcohol on men on the prairie was obvious. Often the only social life for hardworking men in small towns was the tavern. Alcohol was not the only vice in these "joints;" they were magnets for gambling, prostitution, and other illegal activities.
Kansas women became activists as early as 1855, when the first saloon-smashing was recorded in the town of Lawrence. Their efforts were rewarded when, in 1881, Kansas became the first state to adopt laws against the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages.
However, it was little more than a piece of paper, as the law was for the most part ignored. The continued business operations of the saloons meant that the reformers continued with their activities.
It was while in Medicine Lodge that Carrie began her temperance work. Nation started a local branch of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and campaigned for the enforcement of Kansas' ban on the sales of liquor. Her methods escalated from simple protests to greeting bartenders with pointed remarks such as "Good morning, destroyer of men's souls," to serenading saloon patrons with hymns on a hand organ.
Nation felt desperate to save families from the experience she had and had witnessed countless times, that liquor destroyed not only individuals, but families as well. Unhappy with the lack of response to her efforts, she began to pray daily for further direction. On June 5, 1900, she experienced what she could only describe as a heavenly vision. In her own words;
I poured out my grief in agony to God, in about this strain: "Oh Lord you see the treason in Kansas, they are going to break the mothers' hearts, they are going to send the boys to drunkards' graves and a drunkard's hell. I have exhausted my means, Oh Lord, you have plenty of ways. You have used the base things and the weak things, use me to save Kansas. I have but one life to give you, if I had a thousand, I would give them all, please show me something to do." The next morning I was awakened by a voice which seemed to me speaking in my heart, these words, "GO TO KIOWA," and my hands were lifted and thrown down and the words, "I'LL STAND BY YOU." The words, "Go to Kiowa," were spoken in a murmuring, musical tone, low and soft, but "I'll stand by you," was very clear, positive and emphatic. I was impressed with a great inspiration, the interpretation was very plain, it was this: "Take something in your hands, and throw at these places in Kiowa and smash them." I was very much relieved and overjoyed and was determined to be, "obedient to the heavenly vision" (Acts 26:19).
– Carrie Nation, IndyPublishers
Obedient to the revelation, Nation gathered a number of rocks—"smashers,"—and proceeded to Dobson's Saloon. Announcing, "Men, I have come to save you from a drunkard's fate," began to destroy the saloon's stock with her cache of rocks. After similarly destroying two other saloons in the town of Kiowa, a tornado hit eastern Kansas. She interpreted this as a sign of Heaven's approval of her actions.
Nation continued her destructive ways in Kansas, her fame spreading through her growing arrest record. After a raid in Wichita, her husband joked that she should use a hatchet next time for maximum damage. Thus began Carrie's new method, for which she is most famous.
Alone, or accompanied by hymn-singing women, she would march into a bar and sing and pray, while smashing bar fixtures and stock with a hatchet. Between 1900 and 1910, she was arrested some 30 times for "hatchetations," as she came to call them. Nation paid her jail fines from lecture-tour fees and sales of souvenir hatchets.
In April of 1901, Nation went to Kansas City, Missouri, a city known for its wide opposition to the temperance movement, and smashed the liquor supply in various bars in Downtown Kansas City. She was promptly arrested, fined $500 (a huge sum of money in those days), and ordered by a judge to leave Kansas City and never return. 
Speaking on the street in the city of Topeka in 1901, a man approached Mrs. Nation with several small pewter hatchets. He suggested she sell them right there to help finance her work. Soon these hatchets became an important symbol to the mission. Popular, she carried and sold them wherever she went.
Another promotional item were Home Defender buttons. The concept of women as "Home Defenders" was central to the prohibition movement. Simple buttons, they became a proud badge of the prohibition activists.
Carrie Nation took her mission seriously:
Jesus said, "Go out into the highways and hedges." He said this to women, as well as men. If the women of Galilee had not left their homes they would not have followed Jesus. If Phoebe had not left her home, she would not have gone on the business of the church to Jerusalem. We would have no woman missionaries—Women now, are forced to go out to save the homes.
– Carrie Nation, IndyPublishing
In the carrying out of her mission, she lost her second husband, David Nation. He filed for divorce after 24 years of marriage, claiming his wife had deserted him.
Carrie spent the last ten years of her life traveling around the U.S., Canada, and the British Isles speaking out for prohibition. She also actively supported woman's suffrage and women's health issues.
Near the end of her life, she moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where she founded the home known as Hatchet Hall. A spring just across the street from the house is named after her.
Mrs. Nation collapsed during a speech in a Eureka Springs 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 Woman's Christian Temperance Union later erected a stone inscribed
"Faithful to the Cause of Prohibition, She Hath Done What She Could."
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