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Carrie Nation: Kansas Crusader

Updated on May 23, 2019
Virginia Allain profile image

Kansas - It's dear to the heart of Virginia Allain. She grew up there & loves the big skies, the prairies, the small towns, & history.

Leader of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in the 1800s

Growing up in Kansas, we studied Kansas history and the biographies of noted Kansans. The ones that remain vivid in my mind include Amelia Earhart, William Allen White, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Wild Bill Hickox and Carrie Nation.

Carrie Nation especially captured my imagination since she was an outspoken reformer for change in an era when women had few rights and were not part of politics or public life. I'll share with you here some of the reasons Carrie Nation became a national figure and why she was important.

Personally I'm not against alcohol and enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner. What I admired most about Carrie Nation was not necessarily her cause, but her energy and drive to change the system.

Her name was sometimes listed as Carry A. Nation in old flyers (a play on words).

This is the arm of God. I have come to save you men from a drunkard's hell.

— Carry Nation as she attacked the saloon in Wichita, Kansas

Memorabilia on Amazon Featuring Carrie Nation

The visual of Carrie Nation with a Bible in one hand and a hatchet in the other was a great PR move. It sure sticks in your mind. The activist became famous for smashing up whiskey barrels and terrorizing saloons. Later the Women's Christian Temperance Movement sold miniature hatchet souvenirs to bail her out of jail.

Tidbits: Carrie Nation's middle name was Amelia

A Biography of Carrie A. Nation - available from Amazon

It's interesting to note that Carrie Nation's first husband died of alcoholism. Her second husband was a minister.

In the 1800s there was little that women could do and no agencies to turn to if their husband drank all the earnings and beat his wife. This social issue became the cause that drove Carrie Nation and the Women's ChristianTemperance Union.

The state of Kansas passed a prohibition law, but it was widely disregarded. That's when Carrie Nation began her personal attacks on illegal bars by smashing their whiskey barrels.

This kind of vigilante activity raises a number of concerns and personally I prefer the passive resistance methods of Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Still I admire the fervor that Carrie Nation brings to her cause. It's too bad that she did not find other methods to bring attention to the problem and get the system to change.

Carrie Nation's Home in Kansas


Some Kansas Locations Relating to Carry Nation

She shut down the saloon here - Medicine Lodge KS

She died here 1911 - Leavenworth KS

Site of a saloon attack - Wichita KS

Her first saloon attack - Kiowa KS

She met with the governor - Topeka KS

Another saloon attack - Enterprise KS

Another saloon attack - Winfield KS

Her Actions Inspired Other Women to Smash Saloons

The Chicago Tribune reported in 1901 that on January 30th in Anthony, Kansas, "The Carrie Nation crusade reached Anthony ... when fourteen women, all belonging to the best families of this city, led by a Mrs. Sheriff of Danville, Kansas., armed with axes, hatchets, and clubs, visited four saloons, smashed the windows. mirrors, bars, and fixtures, and emptied all the liquor they could find into the streets."

The article said the women were accompanied by their husbands who made sure no one interfered with the activities. A large crowd gathered and followed the women to see the destruction of the last two saloons. Afterwards, the women held a prayer meeting in the street in front of one saloon.

In Montgomery County, Kansas, the county attorney closed all the saloons on January 30th and told the owners they could not operate anymore.

It Wasn't Just Alcohol That She Fought

She lectured about the evils of drink, tobacco, gambling and women's immodest dress.

Spotlight on the WCTU - Women's Christian Temperance Union

Women Torch-Bearers: The Story of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union
Women Torch-Bearers: The Story of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union

This 1924 book contains these chapter headings:

The Woman's Crusade

Mobilization and Organization

The Fight for a Clear Brain

The World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union

Legislative Achievements

Patriotism and War Prohibition

The Eighteenth Amendment

Allegiance to the Constitution

The Nineteenth Amendment

Our Golden Jubilee

A Golden History

A Golden Prophecy.


The Temperance Union's Slogan - anti-alcohol slogan


Carrie Nation said:

“I felt invincible. My strength was that of a giant. God was certainly standing by me. I smashed five saloons with rocks before I ever took a hatchet.”

The Bremen Enquirer  (Bremen, Indiana) 05 Jan 1939, Thu  • Page 7 - An article about Carry Nation by Andrew Carnegie.
The Bremen Enquirer (Bremen, Indiana) 05 Jan 1939, Thu • Page 7 - An article about Carry Nation by Andrew Carnegie. | Source

The Kansas Governor told Carrie Nation

"You are a woman, but a woman must know a woman's place. They can't come in here and raise this kind of disturbance."

"She hath done what she could"

was the epitath that Carrie Nation chose.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Virginia Allain

Had You Heard of Carrie Nation Before?

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    • joanhall profile image

      Joan Hall 

      8 years ago from Los Angeles

      Fascinating! I had never understood how the disempowerment of women was a factor in the temperance movement. What interesting times those were.

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      What a formidable lady.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great len! We should never forget the heroes of yesterday.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      9 years ago from USA

      Super tribute to an awesome lady!

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      9 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      She seems like a strong woman. Nice lens.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Sounds and looks like a strong woman with a strong message...wouldn't you have just loved to have lived back then and seen someone like her for real...sat down and talked to her, I bet she was an interesting character. Enjoyed my visit! 5stars:-)


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