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Carry A. Nation - Part 8

The Famous and Original Bar Room Smasher

Carry A. NationAn American Icon

Carry Nation is still a household name. She has become an American icon. Unfortunately, most people today know her only as an oversimplified stereotype. Her actions made her an easy target for opponents, leading to a caricature that survives today.

In fact, Carry Nation was acting within a mainstream reform movement aimed at improving people's lives. Although many took part in these reforms, it is Nation whose image and name endure.

American icons often have their names used in ways they might not approve. The name "Lincoln" saturates Illinois, and Mark Twain's name is attached to businesses in areas where he lived. Carry Nation found her name used many ways during her lifetime, and it continues so after her death.

A chapter of the Beer Can Collectors of America is named for her. The image of a hatchet on a shot glass was part of a campaign to bring liquor-by-the-drink to Kansas. Perhaps the most twisted use of the name "Carrie Nation" is as street slang for crack cocaine.

Towns visited by the famous reformer still remember her. A Carry Nation Festival is held annually in Holly, Michigan. Her home at Medicine Lodge, Kansas, is open to the public as a museum. The City Hall Museum at Belton, Missouri, maintains an exhibit, and the city has its own Carry Nation festival.

Writers use Nation's name when they wish to suggest that an individual has taken a position as a crusader. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rudolph Giuliani were potential opponents for the 2000 U.S. Senate race for New York, and both were called "Carry Nation" in the months leading up to the election.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

". . . she finds a way to speak out against practices that degrade and humiliate women....She's Carrie Nation. . . . She's a temperance worker wielding a hatchet."
-"The Hillary Dilemma," Washington Post Magazine, March 21, 1999


Rudolph Giuliani

"Seeming to relish his role as the Carrie Nation of the anti-drinking-and-driving movement, Giuliani has begun to enforce a law making it possible for the police to immediately seize the cars of any drivers who fail a Breathalyzer test. . . ."
-"On a Collision Course," Intellectualcapital.com, March 11, 1999


Kansas student Jennifer Payne dressed as Carry Nation for her school presentation.Students study Nation to learn about her long-term impact on history. Kansas fourth-grader Jennifer Payne researched the reformer for a project at Scranton Learning Center.

"Carry Amelia Moore Nation is much more than a blip in history. She has proven that when you believe in something enough, and stand up for yourself, anything is possible. I feel that getting to know more about her has made me a stronger person. I am no longer afraid to stand up for what I believe in. Standing strong to my own convictions gives me the power to change that which I feel needs changing and to look past that which I cannot."

The Lady with the Hatchet

To many people, Carry Nation will always be "The Lady with the Hatchet," an image she herself cultivated. But the hatchet is just a symbol of what she stood for. Her methods may have been extreme, but she sincerely wanted to improve the lives of others. In doing so she focused on problems that had created turmoil in her own life.

"You refused me the vote and I had to use a rock."
"The loving, moral influence of women must be put to the ballot box."
"If you would elevate man you must first elevate woman."

This concludes the Kansas Museum of History's online exhibit Carry A. Nation: The Famous and Original Bar Room Smasher.

  1. How Well Do You Know Carry Nation? - Fun quiz.
  2. Hatchetations and Home Defenders - Why reformers smashed saloons.
  3. Paying the Bills - Selling hatchet pins, buttons, and newsletters.
  4. Taking on the Role of Crusader - Personal tragedies in Nation's life.
  5. Other Crusades - Women's health, woman suffrage, and anti-smoking.
  6. An International Figure - People all over the world followed Nation's work.
  7. She Hath Done What She Could - Final days in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
  8. An American Icon - Carry Nation is a household name today.
  9. Temperance Timeline - Timeline of alcohol reform.

Contact us at kshs.kansasmuseum@ks.gov