Carrie Nation 18461911

White Studio (active 190336)
Gelatin silver print, c. 1903

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

“She fears no man, counts no cost, asks no quarter, and gives none to friend or foe,” exclaimed a fellow reformer about Carrie Nation, the temperance leader renowned for using direct action to shut down illegal saloons. After Nation’s first marriage broke up because of her husband’s alcoholism, she remarried and settled in Kansas, a state that had banned liquor sales in 1880.

Concerned that prohibition was only lightly enforced, she founded a local chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and began a campaign for more vigorous prosecution of state liquor laws. When moral suasion failed to curb illegal activity, she turned first to public demonstrations and later to outright vandalism against offending saloons.

Most famously, Nation stormed into barrooms wielding a hatchet that she used to break bottles and disrupt business. Often arrested and fined, she attracted national attention to the temperance cause.