Saturday, May 23, 2009

Carrie Nation

Like Charles Manson, Carrie Nation is one famous Kentuckian I'd just as soon not have become famous.

Born in Garrard County, Kentucky in 1846 to a delusional mother (she believed she was Queen Victoria), Carrie went on to become the ultimate archetype of the Bible-thumping crusading nutcase whose intolerance crossed into sociopathy.

Most of Carrie's life went by in a dull haze of mediocrity and false starts: she married a Doctor whom she subsequently left, claiming he was an alcoholic. She obtained a teaching certificate but was a failure as a teacher. She and her second husband bought a cotton plantation in Texas but knew nothing about farming and this too ended in failure.

But then, in Kansas, she joined the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, a militant "clean living" organization that frighteningly still exists today. Inspired by their anti-alcohol message, she gleefully joined in their campaign to harass bars, saloons, and the citizens who chose to frequent them.

On June 5, 1900, she had a "heavenly vision" in which God spoke to her and told her to begin a campaign of destruction in the nearby city of Kiowa. From then on, Carrie dedicated her life to terrorism in the name of temperance: she would walk into saloons armed with a Bible and a hatchet, and proceed to smash everything in the place. Being an elderly woman, even the most hardened alcoholic was reluctant to tackle her and stop her from her destruction spree (Myself, I would have had no problem conking her over the head if it had been my bar she was vandalizing) so she almost always got away with her crimes.

Somewhere along the way she changed the spelling of her name to "Carry" and began calling herself "Carry A. Nation", enjoying the implied pun.

According to Wikipedia:

She published a biweekly newsletter called The Smasher's Mail, a newspaper titled The Hatchet, and later in life exploited her name by appearing in vaudeville, selling photographs of herself, charging to lecture, and marketing miniature hatchets.

Nation applauded the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901 because she believed that he secretly drank alcohol and that drinkers always got what they deserved.

She 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 Women's Christian Temperance Union later erected a stone inscribed "Faithful to the Cause of Prohibition, She Hath Done What She Could."

Unfortunately, a century later, there are still people of Carrie's ilk who devote their lives to telling others how they should live, and who aren't reluctant to use destructive and threatening techniques to do so.

1 comment:

Tree said...

wow, I used to think Carry Nation was kind of cool even though I have nothing against booze. youve changed my opinion of her now..........