This Date In History: On this date in 1900, a six foot tall, 175 pound, hatchet wielding woman attacked a saloon in Wichita, Kansas. Carry Nation had been married to a doctor who loved the bottle as much as he loved her…or maybe more. She tried to get him to quit drinking but failed. They separated and shortly thereafter he died. She then married a Texas minister and the couple moved to Medicine Lodge, Kansas in 1889. Nation was convinced that alcohol was the root of all social evil so she took to the streets preaching a temperance message designed to close all of the saloons; first in Medicine Lodge and then in the rest of the state. Now, Kansas was emerging from its wild days of Wyatt Earp and Dodge City cow punchers and Nation soon found that her words alone weren’t enough to get anyone’s attention so she took more aggressive action. She began using her trusty hatchet to try and destroy all of the saloons she could find. On this date in 1900, she managed to shatter a large mirror behind the bar in Wichita and throw rocks at a picture of Cleopatra bathing.
The funny thing is that the sale of alcohol was illegal and she thought it was law abiding citizens duty to enforce the law that public officials turned a blind eye toward. So she gleefully hacked away at whiskey casks, bottles of booze and haranguing customers about their evil ways. It appears her favorite thing to do was destroy expensive ornamentation in drinking establishments. Local law enforcement often didn’t agree with her vigilante ways and she many times found herself in jail. Nevertheless, she enjoyed a certain degree of success as she was able to pressure Kansas law enforcement officials into upholding the law a little more.
By the time national prohibition came about in 1920, Carry Nation had been dead for 9 years and largely forgotten. But Temperance Movement folks point to her actions as a hatchet wielding woman for helping to move the nation toward its “noble experiment” that failed miserably, unless your name was Al Capone.