Skip to main content

Was Carrie Nation Just Insane?

If you dive into temperance history in the slightest, you'll run across the 6' tall figure of Carrie Nation (later changed by her to "Carry"). She is famous for going into saloons with a hatchet and destroying all the merchandise in the name of temperance. No one wanted to mess with her because she was a giant woman wielding a hatchet.


Here's the thing. I always assumed she had just found a schtick and went with it. But the Carrie Nation episode of the hilarious podcast The Dollop, WHILE slightly reprehensible for dealing poorly with the extreme mental illness in her family, also entirely reframed her as a person and made her actions less "hilarious old woman has had enough" and much more "this was a person who needed help."

Carrie Nation lived from 1846-1911. She was born in Kentucky to slaveholding parents. Her mother, some writers say (and The Dollop proclaims) thought she was Queen Victoria, and the family treated her as such. An aunt of Carrie's acted like a weather vane at times, and a cousin decided to just live on all fours for a time until the local minister had a talk with him.

Despite her later propensity for publicity and general hatchet-wielding, Carrie was overall motivated by good (also maybe syphilis, but that's later):

[It] seems clear in retrospect that her first and continuing impulse was to befriend the woebegone and homeless. In Medicine Lodge, Kansas, where she and her second husband, David Nation, settled in the 1890s, she was known as "Mother Nation"-not a name of irony or derision, but one that celebrated her generosity. In Kansas, as in the years before in Missouri and Texas, Carry's instincts were to look out after the poor and battered, especially women. Medicine Lodge saw her establish a sewing circle to make clothes for the destitute. Her strong belief in education (she was once a teacher) led her to make it her business that few children in Medicine Lodge had to stay home from school for want of proper clothing.

Carrie was married for about a year to an alcoholic (he died soon after), from whom, if she DID contract it, she got syphilis. They had a daughter with mental health problems, which Carrie blamed on her husband's alcoholism, despite the storied history of her family.

She remarried David A. Nation, and they went around the West as he tried career after career and she started taking rocks into bars and smashing all their stock.

After she similarly destroyed two other saloons in Kiowa, a tornado hit eastern Kansas, which she took as divine approval of her actions.


Carrie went from Kansas to Oklahoma, smashing up bars and rousing the local Women's Christian Temperance Unions to action. Bars started putting up signs saying "All Nations Welcome But Carrie." Throughout all this, she said she talked to God and He was directing her in what to do. She "sold photographs of herself, collected lecture fees, and marketed miniature souvenir hatchets" to support herself and, according to Wikipedia, pulled a Westboro Baptist because "[s]uspicious that President William McKinley was a secret drinker, Nation applauded his 1901 assassination because drinkers "got what they deserved."



The further research I did after The Dollop's hilarious and informed, but pretty callous and using some suspect sources, podcast, pointed to the good she tried to do, and the book Carry A Nation: Retelling the Life states that newspaper reporters looking for a story reported that she died of complications from syphilis, while the hospital itself stated heart failure as the cause. 


It's extremely possible the hospital wanted to cover up that she had syphilis to protect her reputation, and it seems like it would explain some of her pacing, muttering to herself, and grandiose actions, but who knows. At the end of the day, Carrie Nation did some good things and some bad things. Her childhood with a very mentally disturbed mother sounds sad, her life with her alcoholic husband sounds sad, trying to care for her mentally ill daughter sounds sad, and her second marriage that ended in divorce in 1901 sounds sad. Her work for temperance at least gave her a passion and a drive in life, and while saying it was good the president was assassinated is The Worst, I hope she was happy at least some of the time she was here.

Comments

  1. As a sign of gratitude of how i was saved from syphilis, i decided to reach out to those still suffering from this.i suffered syphilis in the year 2013 and it was really tough and heartbreaking for me because the symptoms were terrible, i always have vaginal discharge, and body itching . we tried various therapies prescribed by our neurologist but none could cure me. I searched for a cure and i saw a testimony by someone who was cured and so many other with similar body problem, and he left the contact of the doctor who had the cure to syphilis . I never imagined syphilis . has a natural cure not until i contacted him and he assured me that i will be fine. I got the herbal medication he recommended and i used it and in one months time i was fully okay even up till this moment am so full of life.syphilis . has a cure and it is a herbal cure contact the doctor for more info on drwilliams098675@gmail.com on how to get the medication. Thanks for reading my testimony

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Harry Potter 2013 Readalong Signup Post of Amazingness and Jollity

Okay, people. Here it is. Where you sign up to read the entire Harry Potter series (or to reminisce fondly), starting January 2013, assuming we all survive the Mayan apocalypse. I don't think I'm even going to get to Tina and Bette's reunion on The L Word until after Christmas, so here's hopin'.


You guys know how this works. Sign up if you want to. If you're new to the blog, know that we are mostly not going to take this seriously. And when we do take it seriously, it's going to be all Monty Python quotes when we disagree on something like the other person's opinion on Draco Malfoy. So be prepared for your parents being likened to hamsters.

If you want to write lengthy, heartfelt essays, that is SWELL. But this is maybe not the readalong for you. It's gonna be more posts with this sort of thing:


We're starting Sorceror's/Philosopher's Stone January 4th. Posts will be on Fridays. The first post will be some sort of hilarious/awesome que…

How to Build a Girl Introductory Post, which is full of wonderful things you probably want to read

Acclaimed (in England mostly) lady Caitlin Moran has a novel coming out. A NOVEL. Where before she has primarily stuck to essays. Curious as we obviously were about this, I and a group of bloggers are having a READALONG of said novel, probably rife with spoilers (maybe they don't really matter for this book, though, so you should totally still read my posts). This is all hosted/cared for/lovingly nursed to health by Emily at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads) because she has a lovely fancy job at an actual bookshop (Odyssey Books, where you can in fact pre-order this book and then feel delightful about yourself for helping an independent store). Emily and I have negotiated the wonders of Sri Lankan cuisine and wandered the Javits Center together. Would that I could drink with her more often than I have.


INTRODUCTION-wise (I might've tipped back a little something this evening, thus the constant asides), I am Alice. I enjoy the Pleistocene era of megafauna and drinking Shirley Templ…

Yes, Frances Willard was as gay as Oscar Wilde. But in a lady-way.

Yup. We're gonna do it. We're gonna talk about Frances Willard and gayness. Look, it's not a major part of her life, and it's definitely not the main thing she should be remembered for, but the fact that a line is being put out that she was totally straight is complete hogwash and it upsets me.




The thing is, I get when people say it's anachronistic to put the cultural concept of "gayness" onto a person from a century other than the 20th/21st. I get that. And usually agree with it. But Frances Willard is one of the gayest people in history. I have zero problem labeling her with that. The fact that she didn't have the language to describe what she was experiencing is upsetting, but she managed to have a seemingly full and satisfying life anyway, so I am happy for her.

And for people annoyed when gay people say that someone from the past was gay, here's the thing: When you're completely whitewashed from history, it is a matter of TOTAL DELIGHT wh…