This week’s Folklore Friday:
Carrie Nation was a radical member of the temperance movement in the early 1900’s. Growing up, her family was very poor, and her mother suffered delusions of being Queen Victoria. Carrie, spelt Carry by her uneducated father, was devoutly Christian from age 10. Her first husband, Charles Gloyd, was an alcoholic, which Carrie blamed for the multiple physical and mental disabilities of their first child.
During Carrie’s second marriage she started a local chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and had a successful protest in 1899 when she shut down a saloon by singing a temperance hymn. However during the next year, she started to get more extreme. She and a group of her peers entered a saloon and began to sing, but also began to smash bottles, furniture, and pornographic pictures with bricks. Her husband was the one to suggest an axe would be more effective, starting Carrie’s famous “hatchetations.” Carrie was arrested about 30 times in the next 10 years for smashing up countless bars and “joints.” During this time she styled her name as “Carry A Nation.” She then went on a lecture tour, exploiting her created brand by appearing in stage shows, starting newsletters, writing a book, and opening not very productive support homes for women.
Carrie died in 1911, possibly of syphilis, stating simply “I have done what I could.” Sadly for Carrie, her efforts were largely mocked. Her hatchet and stern uniform did more to harm the temperance movement than help to it. She is celebrated today by Ontario’s Great Lakes Brewery with an IPA named “My Bitter Wife,” and in Boston, MA with a prohibition themed bar on Beacon Hill called “Carrie Nation.”