Carry Nation was fifty-four when she "smashed" her first saloon.
But we have known very little about what her life was like before
she started her infamous hatchet crusade - until now. In this
first-ever scholarly biography of Nation, Fran Grace unfolds a
story that often contrasts with the common public 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. The book narrates Nation's upbringing
in antebellum Kentucky, the family's devastation after the Civil
War, and her passionate romance and disappointing marriage with
alcoholic physician, Charles Gloyd.By her early twenties, Nation
was already a single mother and destitute widow. This experience
threw her into a spiritual crisis that was only partly resolved
when she married a much older David Nation. Their correspondence
indicates it was a marriage of convenience. He needed a homemaker
and she needed a provider. They were both disappointed. Marital
tensions increased over their farm failure in Texas, her
exploration into Holiness religion, and her necessary work outside
of the home as a hotel manager, osteopath and preacher. When they
moved to Kansas, an eruptive and radical place during the 1890s,
Nation's personal disappointments were translated into an agenda
for social reform by popular movements such as Populism, women's
suffrage, and temperance.Frustrated by the rampant violations
against the state's prohibition law and empowered by her sense of
divine mission, she responded with rocks, crowbars, and hatchets.
The apex of her hatchet movement was the 1901 Topeka crusade, after
which David Nation divorced her on the grounds of desertion. Carry
Nation spent her last two decades performing on multiple stages,
serving sentences in various jails, battling other family members
over the future of her unstable adult daughter, editing two
newspapers, and founding several homes for battered, elderly and/or
teenage women. This complexly woven and delightfully written
biography restores a robustness to Nation's character that is
lacking in the popular image of her.
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