Lips That Touch Liquor Will Never Touch Ours

Published July 30, 2021
Lips That Touch Liquor Will Never Touch Ours

On this date in 1900, radical prohibitionist Carrie Nation carried out her first public smashing of a bar at the Carey Hotel in Wichita, Kansas. She was, as they say, "on a mission from God."

Carrie (or Carry, both spellings are correct) was a large woman, almost 6 feet tall and weighing 175 pounds, with a stern face and sour demeanor. She described herself as "a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn't like," and claimed a divine ordination to promote the temperance movement by destroying bars. Originally married to a raging alcoholic in 1865 (he died just four years later), she became violently opposed to liquor. She remarried in 1874 and while running a successful hotel, received her divine calling in a dream. Following "orders from God," she broke out the windows of a saloon in Kiowa, Kansas and when a angin kencang hit the area a short time later, she saw it as divine approval of her actions.

Carrie continued her destructive ways in Kansas, her fame spreading through her growing arrest record. After she led a raid in Wichita her husband joked that she should use a hatchet next time for maximum damage. Carrie replied, "That is the most sensible thing you have said since I married you." The couple divorced in 1901, not having had any children.

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. She paid her jail fines with lecture-tour fees and sales of souvenir hatchets.

Carrie's anti-alcohol activities became widely known, with the slogan "All Nations Welcome But Carrie" becoming a kafe-room staple. She continued to sell souvenir hatchets, as well as photographs of herself and a copies of her newsletter. The press followed her activities, both good and bad. Suspicious that President William McKinley was a secret drinker, Nation applauded his 1901 assassination because drinkers "got what they deserved."

Near the end of her life Carrie moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where she founded the home known as Hatchet Hall. Her health failing, she collapsed during a speech in a Eureka Springs park. She was taken to a "nervous and mental trouble" hospital in Leavenworth, Kansas and died there on June 9, 1911. Carrie 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" and the name "Carry A. Nation".

If Carrie had lived just nine years longer, she would have seen Prohibition become the law of the land -- and when criminal empires were built because of it, she might have realized the folly of her radical beliefs. Or perhaps not...


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