Carry A. Nation

Carry A. Nation

Retelling the Life
Fran Grace
Distribution: World
Publication date: 6/29/2001
ISBN: 978-0-253-10833-3
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2005 AAUP Public and Secondary School Library Selection
Carry A. Nation
Retelling the Life

Fran Grace

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

May 2001
400 pages, 57 b&w photos, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, bibl., index, append.
cloth 0-253-33846-8 $35.00 s / £26.50

Author Bio

Fran Grace is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Redlands in Redlands California, where she teaches courses in U.S. religious history, meditation, women’s studies, the history of Christianity, religion and hate, and issues in modern religion.


". . . a biography that seeks to set Nation's record straight." —Choice

"Carry Nation . . . a hatchet—wielding, pleasure—rejecting temperance fanatic . . . yet . . . Fran Grace finds in her protagonist a strength of purpose, a moral certitude and a feminist sensibility that humanizes this woman so often caricatured or demonized. . . . In her retelling of Nation's life, Fran Grace leads the way." —Women's Review of Book

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Table of Contents

Preliminary :


Kentucky, 1846-1864
Missouri, 1864-1877
Texas, 1877-1889
Kansas, 1889-1896
Oklahoma Territory, 1896-1899
Back to Kansas, 1899-1901
The Topeka crusade, 1901
From Kansas to the world, 1901-1909
Arkansas, 1909-1911

A note on the sources