Carry A. Nation
Retelling the Life
The story of one of America’s most notorious and misunderstood women.
Carry Nation was 54 when she "smashed" her first saloon, but her life before she started her infamous hatchet crusade has been little known until now. In this first scholarly biography of Nation, Fran Grace unfolds a story that often contrasts with the image of Nation as "Crazy Carry," a bellicose, blue-nosed, man-hating killjoy. Using newly available archival materials and placing Nation in her various historical and cultural contexts, Grace "retells" the crusader’s tumultuous life.
Brought up in antebellum Kentucky, Nation lived through the devastation of the Civil War and endured a failed marriage to an alcoholic physician. In her early 20s, a single mother and a destitute widow, she experienced a spiritual crisis. Her second marriage, to a much-older David Nation, grew strained under the failure of their Texas farm, her exploration into Holiness religion, and her attempts to work outside the home. When the couple moved to Kansas, Nation’s disappointments translated into an agenda for social reform. Frustrated by the rampant violations of the state’s prohibition law and empowered by a sense of divine mission, Nation responded with rocks, crowbars, and hatchets. Though much of her last two decades was spent on stage or in jail and in battles with other family members over the future of her unstable adult daughter, she edited two newspapers and founded several homes for abused and needy women.
This complexly woven and delightfully written biography adds depth to the popular image of Carry Nation, situating her at the center of major cultural currents in her time.
Fran Grace is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Redlands.
Religion in North America
Catherine L. Albanese and Stephen J. Stein, editors
400 pages, 57 b&w photos, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, bibl., index, app