BRIAN LAMB, HOST: This week on
BOOKNOTES our guest is Fran Grace,
assistant professor of religious studies
at the University of Redlands. She joins
us to discuss her recent book "Carry A.
Nation: Retelling the life."
Fran Grace, who was Carry Nation?
Professor FRAN GRACE, AUTHOR, "CARRY A. NATION: RETELLING THE LIFE": Carry Nation is not the woman
that we normally think of. Carry Nation is more than a Virgo,
more than a smasher of saloons. She didn't start doing her
smashing until age 54. So that's a difficult question to answer,
`Who was Carry Nation?' She was more than she became
after age 54 when she took her hatchets and then started
She was a complex woman, not the flattened version that we
often read about in the three biographies that have
bitten--been written about her so far. She was a complex
woman who was very expansive in terms of her personality, in
addition to the rigidity of her prohibitionism.
She was a very religious woman, which is something that I
want to emphasize in the biography, because it was her
religious vision. That's the reason we know about her,
because she felt she was called by God to go into saloons and
address a concern that she had a lot of passion for but no
avenue to express it. As a woman, she couldn't vote. She
tried every other avenue to try to address the issue of
prohibition, but they all closed down. And finally, who else to
turn to but God? And God directed her toward her smashing
method, a method that she said had been used in the temple
by Jesus, smashing the exchangers--the money exchangers in
the holy places of God, a smashing method that had been
used by Moses, she said, at Mt. Sinai. So she was just
carrying on a tradition that was well-established.
LAMB: When did she live?
Prof. GRACE: Carry Nation lived from 1846 until her death in
LAMB: Makes her how old when she died?
Prof. GRACE: Oh, no, that's--you're going to catch me there. I
would say 60--65. I can't do the math real quick there.
LAMB: Here's the picture that's on the cover. At what age
was this taken, do you know?
Prof. GRACE: That would have been taken probably in 1901,
about 100 years ago. This year, 2001, marks the centennial of
her famous smashing crusade.
LAMB: You see a hatchet in one hand and a Bible in the other.
Prof. GRACE: Hatchet in one hand and a Bible in the other.
LAMB: When did you get interested in her?
Prof. GRACE: I got interested in her about 10 years ago. I was
a PhD student at Princeton, and I was a member of a religious
tradition that she was a part of for her li--her whole life. And
LAMB: Which is what?
Prof. GRACE: Well, it's a religious tradition that's quite
complicated to talk about. During her time, it was a religious
movement known as the Campbellite Movement, named after
a religious reformer in Virginia and Pennsylvania, named
Alexander Campbell. Nowadays, in our time it has manifested
in certain denominations such as the Disciples of Christ, the
Christian Church and the conservative version of it--the
churches of Christ, which is the tradition where I spent most
of my adult life. So here I was a PhD student in Princeton,
studying religion and theology and yet, as a woman in a very
conservative religious tradition, not able to speak in my own
church, not able to teach--to teach religion, to teach
theology, to preach. And so I turned to Carry Nation as a
woman in the history of my church, the only one I'd ever
heard about, to try to figure out `how can I be a woman in
thi--in this religious tradition?'
Now she didn't give me all the answers, obviously. She had
certain methods that wouldn't work in--in my own time. But
that's why I first turned to her. I needed to learn about a
usable past in my own religious tradition.
LAMB: So your PhD is in what?
Prof. GRACE: My PhD is in the history of Christianity with an
emphasis on religion in the United States.
LAMB: What are you doing with that?
Prof. GRACE: I teach now at a wonderful place called the
University of Redlands. It's between Los Angeles and Palm
Springs, about 110 degrees right now, pretty hot. It's a small
school, liberal arts. I teach a variety of courses. I teach a
course on religion in America; I teach a women's studies
course; I do a first-year seminar. I've developed a course
called Religion and Hate, which is very interesting, and I'm, of
course, in mysticism.
LAMB: And 1846 she was born; in 1911 she died. Was there a
time when everybody in the United States would have known
Prof. GRACE: Absolutely.
Prof. GRACE: 100 years ago.
LAMB: In 1901?
Prof. GRACE: Ri--ri--right at this time. Her first smashing was
in a little dusty town in Kansas right near the Oklahoma border
in June of 1900. And you know, that was really only a locally
publicized event. And then she went...
LAMB: What was it?
Prof. GRACE: What was it? It was her first real smashing, so
to say. She had been going through this dusty stopover town
when she lived in Oklahoma in the 1890's, and she'd go back
up to a place that she was very much identified
with--Medicine Lodge, Kansas. And Kiowa was a little town
right here in between, so she went here a lot. And there were
saloons in this town that she would try to instruct in terms of
her prohibitionism, and you know, the saloon keepers just
couldn't really give a rap about her messages. She would stop
in there, and she felt like, `I've given those people fair
warning,' you know. `Things are really needing a lift here in
terms of the prohibition movement, and so it's time for me to
really make a statement.' So she went down to Kiowa and she
smashed up several saloons.
But it wasn't that event that really brought her to public
attention. That happened about six months later in Wichita.
LAMB: But there was a drugstore that she went into even
Prof. GRACE: Yes, you're right, a few years earlier. But a
drugstore was a different thing from a saloon. And she did it
with a lot of other women. Sh--it was a group effort. It was a
team that did that. And it wasn't quite as radical to go into a
drugstore as it was to be a woman walking into the male
bastion of the saloon with your hatchet in hand and your
rocks that you're going to throw to completely wreck it. It's a
different thing to go into a drugstore and say `Let me see
that barrel underneath that counter' and then roll it out into
the street and smash it there. The difference is that five
years later she actually took that step. She walked into a
saloon, which women rarely did, except maybe to get bottles
of milk. It was--she called it a den of vice. She called the
saloon keepers swill-faced, beak-nosed bed mates of Satan.
That was what people thought about saloons, people like
LAMB: You said in your book that she was in jail 31 times?
Prof. GRACE: At least 31 times. It could be more, including in
LAMB: Where is this picture, do you know?
Prof. GRACE: That's in Wichita.
LAMB: And what's she doing here?
Prof. GRACE: Well, she's praying, and that was her favorite
pose for photographs that were--that were taken of her in
jail, and there were many of them. She wanted to be
photographed in a petitionary position, a prayerful position
with her Bible open, because--you have to understand, as a
woman, to pick up a hatchet during those times and to do
anything out in public--speaking reform--she needed
justification. She couldn't say, `I'm doing this because I want
LAMB: But this...
Prof. GRACE: And Carry's justification was that it was a divine
LAMB: I didn't mean to interrupt you. This is a little hatchet
picture in the book.
Prof. GRACE: Mm-hmm. Yes.
LAMB: And it's got `Carry Nation' on the--written on the side.
Prof. GRACE: Yes.
LAMB: Where does this come from?
Prof. GRACE: That comes from probably a little bag that she
would have had. You see on some of the photographs of her,
she has in addition to her hatchet in hand and Bible in hand,
she will have a bag that she carried with her. And in that bag,
you would have found several--hundreds probably--of those
little hatchets. And she would sell them to earn money to pay
for her legal fines. She was very enterprising that way, and it
was very interesting to read the diaries and--and--and the
records of people from that time who would not have really
paid any attention to her prohibitionism, but they wanted a
hatchet. That's how popular she was. They wanted a
hatchet. They were consumers of the performance and the
excitement that she gave.
LAMB: You mentioned the diary. You say in the book that in
1872 onward she kept a diary. Have you had your hands on
Prof. GRACE: I have had my hands on it many times, and
it's--it's--it's--it's a very special experience.
Prof. GRACE: Well, you know, you--walking into the Kansas
State Historical Society where this is kept, it--it's all very
quiet and you have a sense of reverence going in there. They
tell you `no pens, only pencils.' You know, `Use this paper,
not your own.' Archives are a space that are somewhat
religious in and of themselves, so walking in there and
having--having the--the worker bring out these archives that
smell--you know, you open them up and the dust, it
smells--really transporting, and to pull them out and to turn
those pages--and the pages of her diary are very mildewed.
So there's a certain smell of--of that. And they have
preserved where she kept little scraps of paper, events that
she went to. And to see the places that are scratched out
and to see the drawings in there--at some point she drew the
feet and hands of her daughter as she was growing up at
different ages. Yes, it's a very moving experience to be with a
woman's words that very few people would have ever read.
LAMB: You say that the people that live out here on the East
Coast think differently about Carry Nation than the people
who live in the Midwest.
Prof. GRACE: They thought she was crazy, and they thought
she was a megaloamaniac, and they thought she was
masculinized, and they thought she was menopausal and
LAMB: East Coasters?
Prof. GRACE: East Coasters. And the argument that I try to
develop in the book comes out of my question--when I first
started reading all this material, the newspapers all across the
country gave reportage of her. And the newspaper reportage
was different according to the regions. In the Midwest, sure,
some people were appalled by her, OK. Not everyone joined
her smashing crusades on the streets of Midwestern towns,
but they didn't comment on her ugliness, so to say. They
didn't comment on what she wore. They didn't comment on
her as a woman in the same condescending way. And then in
the Northeastern press, which is really where we get our
mythology about her in American history--it comes from those
Northeastern press rooms where they didn't like what she was
doing as a woman. They didn't like prohibition, and they didn't
LAMB: You say something between 25 and 30 percent of the
tax revenue in Kansas came from liquor sales back in those
Prof. GRACE: I can't remember if that was...
LAMB: May not have been Kansas, but one of those states
back then that...
Prof. GRACE: Well, certainly what was happening in Kansas
was that the prohibition--there was a prohibition amendment,
and so they were illegal. But what would happen is that the
saloon keepers--Of course, they wanted to keep selling
liquor--would pay off public officials. They would pay them
fees--and in one case in 1900 in Arkansas City, Kansas, the
whole town shut down; the fire department closed and
the--the electric company closed because the temperance
people had come in and gotten rid of the saloons momentarily.
And so the fees that were filling the coffers to run the city
So there was this connection between the revenue from illegal
saloons going into the public coffers, and that was one thing
that really, really angered a person like Carry Nation. And in
fact, that--that was why she ultimately picked up her
hatchet. It wasn't that she was crazy or menopausal or
sex-repressed. It's that she was angry that the people who
were supposed to enforce the law were not doing it, and
that's why she had so many followers, as people were fed up
with this. They had voted for an amendment and they wanted
to see it enforced.
LAMB: How many different places did she live in her life?
Prof. GRACE: A lot of places. She traveled a lot. She was born
in Kentucky and moved several times, continuing to go north
and to Missouri. And then during the Civil War, she and her
family went down to Texas. She was about 16 or so I think at
that time. Then after the war was over, they would go back
to Missouri. And then she marries her first husband there, and
he died. And she married her second husband there, and he
wanted to go down to Texas to try out farming. And so they
went down South again. And--and you know, she--she was a
woman who moved a lot, and that--that's part of her story,
which creates a kind of fragmented history.
LAMB: How many children did she have?
Prof. GRACE: She only had one child by birth.
LAMB: You leave me wanting to ask, `What--what do you
mean by that?'
Prof. GRACE: Well, because she ended up having several
stepchildren. Her second husband, David Nation, was a
minister who'd been married before. And after his wife died, he
was--if I can remember correctly--45, 46, 47, and he had
these several children still at home. Well, he started a
correspondence with a woman that he knew in town who had
just been widowed, Carry Gloyd, who had one daughter. And
the--the tone of their correspondence is purely pragmatic,
despite some rhetoric that's flowery and romantic. It's pretty
much down to the brass tax of, `You know what?' as he says
later, `I needed someone to run my house. I needed a woman
in the house to--to housekeep and to look after my kids.' So
she be--she took on that role as stepmother.
But it was the relationship with her daughter that really was
the most tragic in her life. Again, this is something that other
biographers haven't emphasized but is, of course, very
important to a woman like Carry Nation, who presented
herself, in her words, as the representative mother. This was
the whole argument for why she would go into saloons. She
called herself a home defender. Well, if you call yourself a
home defender and a representative mother and your own
daughter is--her whole life is filled with sorrow and
disappointment and--what does that say about you? So she
had this whole very complicated sense of her own
LAMB: You've got a picture here that needs some explanation.
Prof. GRACE: Yeah.
LAMB: What are we seeing in this picture?
Prof. GRACE: Well, you're seeing Carry Nation, first of all. And
she's, at that point, about six months from her death. So
she's not well. And you can see from the lines of her face,
that sh--there's sadness there. And there's, in fact, sadness
in all the faces of her grandchildren there. They're the children
of her daughter, Charlien Gloyd-McNabb, who's in the lower
portion there. And Charlien's picture is an insert.
LAMB: Right there.
Prof. GRACE: It's an insert because at this point, probably, I
think, she's been placed in an insane asylum by her husband,
Alex McNabb, who is the man with the mustache. That picture
was taken in his 20s at the point--and that's an insert, too.
So this photograph of Carry Nation and her kids with the two
inserts comes at a very crucial moment in the family's history,
for all of them.
LAMB: You say that the daughter--and her name was?
Prof. GRACE: Charlien.
LAMB: This daughter has no teeth at this point?
Prof. GRACE: That's right. You can al--you can tell from the
photograph that her--her cheeks are very, you know,
LAMB: What caused that?
Prof. GRACE: Well, it's hard to say exactly, but the clues that
are in Carry Nation's diary suggest that she had, as a young
child, lockjaw, which meant that her--her--her jaws were
locked and she couldn't get food in. And Carry Nation tried all
that she could. She took her to doctors in San Antonio. She
took her to doctors up in Philadelphia. And in fact, it was
borrowing money from Alex McNabb when he was in his
20s--It was just a sum of a few hundred dollars--which,
according to one of Carry Nation's granddaughters--a
daughter of Charlien, it was borrowing this money that led to
the marriage. Because Alex told Carry Nation, 'I will let you
borrow money to take Charlien up to Philadelphia to see a
doctor, but I want you to persuade her to marry me.' And
Charlien apparently told her daughter this story of coming
back from Philadelphia, lying in bed with her mother and
having her mother refuse to leave until Charlien had agreed to
the marriage against her will. And it turned out to be a very
devastating marriage for Charlien because she was abused in
a lot of different ways and, as you can see, never--never
LAMB: How long did you work on this book?
Prof. GRACE: I've been working on this book for seven years, I
LAMB: What did it take to get the University of Indiana Press
to say yes?
Prof. GRACE: That's a good question, isn't it? It just all fell
into place in a way that I still am very humbly grateful for.
LAMB: But why a university press and not a commercial press?
Prof. GRACE: I--I--I never thought about a commercial press,
to be honest. I mean, I--it was--I never even thought it
would be a book. I started to research Carry Nation because I
needed to. I needed to learn something. I don't even see
myself as a writer, frankly. I'm coming to that more now, but I
learn by words and by writing, and I wanted to learn about
Carry Nation. So I started to write what I was learning, and it
turned into a story.
LAMB: Where did you go in the process of your research?
Prof. GRACE: Oh, way too many places and then not enough,
either. I went to all the places where she lived and had been.
Kentucky--several places in Kentucky. I went to Missouri. I
went to Kansas, of course, several times. I went to Oklahoma.
And I can remember one of the most astounding things that
happened, filled with the serendipity that only researchers
who've spent years trying to find out information can
appreciate--I'm driving into this little town in
Oklahoma--Seiling. One street, there's a 7-Eleven that's open.
This is a Sunday morning; everything is shut down, of course;
people are in church. The only thing that is open is this
7-Eleven Diamond Shamrock. I thought this was really rotten
timing for me to come here on a Sunday morning, 'cause I had
to be somewhere else, you know, the next day. I was pressed
for time, pressed for money. I walk into the Diamond
Shamrock and I say to the person--the clerk working there--I
say, `Has anyone here ever heard of Carry Nation? Can you
give me any leads here?'
He said, `You would not believe it. This is your lucky day.
There's a man here, Reverend Vaughn, sitting in our Diamond
Shamrock Cafe having lunch, and he's the local expert on
Carry Nation. So I go over to his table and say, `Excuse me. I
really hate to interrupt your Sunday lunch, but I'm--what can
you tell me about Carry Nation?' `Oh, please sit down.' Ended
up, he had--he knew where some of the archives were from
the church records that I was most interested in seeing that
recorded David Nation coming down there and the church
writing about it. And--and he had a lot of stories from his
parents who had heard Carry Nation preach. So moments like
that made having to go to all these different places--and I
found people like that everywhere just--that were full of
information and a willingness to help. People love Carry
Nation--people who lived there.
LAMB: You said--oh, by the way, when you went to all these
places, how often do you see a plaque that says `Carry
Nation lived here'?
Prof. GRACE: Several places. There's one in Oklahoma, in
Seiling there, although they're not always accurate. They
sometimes layer in later history, such as in this place in
Oklahoma. It says that she smashed saloons. Well, that was
in the 1890s. I don't think she smashed saloons there, at that
time, so--that I've been able to discover. And in Texas, where
she ran a hotel in the 1880s, right along the Brazos River,
there's a town now that really has disappeared, East
Columbia. But the site of her hotel, it's really beautiful with
willow trees hanging down, and you can imagine her hotel
there. There's a plaque there for her.
And then in Kentucky, her birth home, which is still standing.
You can go down Carry Nation Lane, and there are a couple of
plaques that mark that.
LAMB: In the back, a couple of notes I wanted to ask you
about. In your--when you're discussing the selected
biography, you--you write this: "The illuminating letters
written by Nation's eldest granddaughter, Carry Belle
McNabb-Fitch, are at the Southern California Social Sciences
Research Library in Los--Los Angeles. Her candid comments
about the family flush out the last years of Nation's life, and
her Marxist interpretation of Nation's life and work is unique."
Prof. GRACE: It was fascinating to get those letters. And now
I was trying to remember actually yesterday how I got onto
those letters. It--I--but I've lost that track. But when I read
them, here is a woman who, in her--who herself is--is, I think,
writing in her 50s or 60s.
LAMB: Is she alive?
Prof. GRACE: No. No, she's not alive.
LAMB: So the great--the eldest granddaughter is dead?
Prof. GRACE: Right.
LAMB: But--but you say "her Marxist interpretation."
Prof. GRACE: Her Marxist interpretation. What she does with
Carry, first of all, is she demythologizes a lot of Carry's
religious hype, because she didn't believe in it. She thought it
was a load of you-know-what--bunk. She called it `my
grandmother's mysticism.' And so she offers an interpretation
of Carry's life that said, you know, `It wasn't so much the
religion that inspired my grandmother; it was more the
difficulties she had as a lower-class,
hard-working--whose--whose life was hard--a woman whose
life was hard.' She dreamed that she would marry a man who
had enough wealth so that she would be the, quote, "true
woman" who stayed at home and did all this. But her dreams
never panned out for her, and this is what the granddaughter
wants to say. It is the economics of it. And the people who
have written biographies about her never get to that. And all
these, you know, Carry Nation operas--they all point to the
love story and to the religion, but they don't get to the heart
of the pain, the tragedy, the disappointment that came
because she had to work so hard and had so many tragedies
in her life.
LAMB: But that--where did--why was she a Marxist? If the
Prof. GRACE: Well, because she--because she pointed out the
economics of what underlay Carry's passion.
LAMB: I wondered why--why you think the granddaughter
was a Marxist?
Prof. GRACE: Oh, I see what you're saying. I--That's a part of
the history I haven't tracked. There--there was a--a whole
movement of the left in California where sh--where Carry lived
out a lot of her life--Carry the granddaughter. And she
apparently went to a lot of Socialist, Marxist, left-wing kinds
of meetings and very much participated by reading their
periodicals and getting together with people. I don't know
what led her to that. Certainly she rejected, early on
apparently, her grandmother's religious understanding of
life--as religion as a way to frame her life. So my guess is she
was in search of some other kind of framework for her own
LAMB: Here's another--just a small note wh--back in the
source notes part of your book. You say here, `He and a
friend, Judge Saunders, whose leg was allegedly healed of an
ulcer from the springs, named the area Eureka for,' quote, "I
have found it,"' unquote. And this is Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Prof. GRACE: That's right.
LAMB: What role did Eureka Springs, Arkansas, have in Carry
Prof. GRACE: Eureka Springs, for Carry Nation, was an oasis
that people who, at the end of their life, after they've worked
really hard, it's what they longed for. And it was a period that
was not long enough for her. She only lived there two years
or so. But she made a decision in 1909, after coming back
from an extended tour in Britain, that it was time to rest. It
was time to retreat from public life, not completely, but in the
same way that she had been living it, smashing up saloons
and lecturing everywhere, because she was in constant
movement. She never really had a home. And so she turned to
Eureka Springs where her husband had been healed of a
certain rheumatism, I think, or some kind of arthritic thing.
And so she goes to Eureka Springs and she settles into a
lovely little street area with a big house that she names
Hatchet Hall. And it's a place where she had women who were
fleeing from marriages to alcoholic husbands. Yes, there's a
picture of it. Hatchet Hall, and here's Carry Nation with other
women who she's trying to extend a safe place to, elderly
women who have no one to care for them and have no money
to support themselves, and then pre-college children who
came to learn from Carry Nation. So Hatchet Hall in Eureka
Springs in 1909 and 1910 became a place where people could
seek refuge if they needed it, where people could go and sing.
Carry Nation was a singer and she had a parlor organ, and
they could go for meals that were cheap. There were workers
who would walk that street--workers who were minors or
whatever, and they would stop in for cheap meals.
LAMB: Is it still there?
Prof. GRACE: It is still there. It is still there.
LAMB: What's it now? What's Hatchet Hall today?
Prof. GRACE: I went last to Hatchet Hall, I think, in 1998.
That was three years ago. And they were turning it into
LAMB: Are they still calling it Hatchet Hall?
Prof. GRACE: Still calling it Hatchet Hall--still. And--and the
mother of the man who owned Hatchet Hall was running an
antique store right next door, and I went in there to try to
see if she could sell me some hatchets, some little hatchet
pins, and she had a very interesting story for me. She said
that she still saw Carry Nation's spirit coming down the
staircase with a tray of food.
LAMB: Can you still--today if we wanted to get a little
hatchet, can you--can you buy them?
Prof. GRACE: Sure, eBay.
Prof. GRACE: Probably so, yes.
LAMB: But I mean, is--is there any store around the country
that sells them? Are they--you know, as souvenirs anywhere?
Prof. GRACE: No, I don't think so.
LAMB: Do you carry a hatchet with you?
Prof. GRACE: I sometimes do carry a hatchet with me,
LAMB: Well, wh--how big?
Prof. GRACE: Well, it's about--it's a little pin, you know,
like--sometimes I wear it here when I'm lecturing about Carry
Nation. And--and the one that I have actually has a little
diamond in it. There were different versions of it that she
LAMB: So what were the years that she would go into a
saloon and take her little hatchet and break everything?
Prof. GRACE: Well, beginning in 1900--in December of 1900.
She didn't take a hatchet, though. She took rocks. OK. She
hadn't gotten to her hatchet phase yet. That came a couple
LAMB: First rocks. I mean, she carried them--how'd she carry
Prof. GRACE: Well, she carried them in her--her--her
overcoat, underneath. So she would go in and she would
throw them, and sometimes she would pick up, you know, a
cue stick or billiard ball. Whatever lay unattended, so to say,
she would also employ in her mission. And so she would throw
these rocks, and that started in December 1900.
And then in another crusade, I think either January or
February--must have been January in Wichita--then she had
this group of followers, and I think one of them picked up a
hatchet. And as soon as that happened, the media latched on
to that--hatchet women.
Prof. GRACE: ...the hatchet women.
LAMB: ...how many saloons do you think she went in in her
Prof. GRACE: I have no idea.
Prof. GRACE: Oh, yeah.
LAMB: Hundreds of saloons?
Prof. GRACE: Well, hundreds of saloons. But she didn't always
smash. See, this is what we don't understand. She was
discriminating in her smashing. She focused her attention on
those saloons--her smashing attention--on those saloons that
LAMB: She didn't ever go into a legal...
Prof. GRACE: She did go in sometimes to saloons or to bars
that were selling alcohol legally. For example, Union Station in
Washington, DC, in 1909, she busted up a saloon there and,
you know, who knows? I'm not sure why she did that.
LAMB: So how would she do it? I mean, what evidence did
you have about how she would go about it, when she would
walk into one of these saloons with her rocks?
Prof. GRACE: Well, when she first started out--and it wasn't
really--didn't have much of a repertoire--she would go the
night before and do some reconnoitering, you know, kind of
checking it out, see what the situation is. She would try to
talk to the barkeeper. `Hey, you know, really, you shouldn't
be doing this. This picture of Cleopatra at bath, this painting
on your wall, is really an abomination. Please take it off. This
statue, you know, please cover it up.' And if she went back
the next day and nothing had changed--for example, one time
in Chicago, she went back and, you know, a saloon keeper
had kind of, you know, covered up a--a--a statue with--a
woman's bust and he covered it up, you know, with a shoulder
hanging out and the--and the breasts still revealed. And this
really ticked Carry Nation off. So if nothing had changed from
when she'd gone in for her initial look at it, then she would go
in the next day with her rocks, and she would start throwing
Prof. GRACE: At the mirrors, at the paintings that she found
so offensive. And she would, you know, take the part of the
glasses and shove them off. She'd get--look at--when she
had her hatchet, she would look at crates and beer kegs and
start smashing those.
LAMB: Anybody with her when she'd do this?
Prof. GRACE: Eventually, yes. Of course, a lot of people
wanted to join in, mostly women, but also some men and
sometimes some children. At one point in Topeka, she had
probably several hundred, close to 1,000 or 1,500 people
behind her. And they would--you know, that got out of hand.
See, this is--this became her problem is once she started her
crusade, it--it was out of her hands.
LAMB: What would happen to her after she'd do this?
Prof. GRACE: Well, different things. Sometimes people would,
of course, call the police, or, you know, once she got started,
the police knew and they caught her before she was going to
start smashing and arrest her for causing a riot. Because as
soon as she walked off a streetcar or into a street, people
knew she was coming. There would be hundreds of people in,
you know, these little town squares, and people were, you
know, shoving and trying to see her and--and, you know,
trampling over others. So she--she was that kind of figure.
And I think the people who were in charge of public order
hated it when she came.
LAMB: And in what locales in the United States--states, for
instance, would--did she do this in?
Prof. GRACE: Mostly in the Midwest.
LAMB: You say, though...
Prof. GRACE: She went down...
LAMB: ...she was here in Washington?
Prof. GRACE: She did. Well, she lived here in Washington for a
while. She helped to pass a prohibition part to the
Constitution in Oklahoma in 1907, and then she decided, `OK,
if I'm going to get that serpent of alcohol, I've got to get it at
the head, so I'm going to Washington, DC,' the holy spirit...
LAMB: Did she ever meet a president?
Prof. GRACE: She tried. She tried valiantly to get into the
White House and was refused at the door. And her comment
was that it was gender discrimination. That it--because she
was a woman, a representative mother, you know, `You
can't, if you're a woman, get in to see the president, but if
you're a brewer or if you're a tycoon, you know, you can get
in to see whoever you want.' So...
LAMB: Now as you're going through this research and writing
your book--and by the way, where did you write it?
Prof. GRACE: I wrote it in a lot of different places. I wrote it in
a lot of hotel rooms as I was traveling--Arkansas, Kentucky,
Missouri, Texas. I--my life has been very unsettled the last
few years, and so--and I--I made a comparison with Carry
Nation that I--I was having a fragmented writing process, just
as she had a very fragmented transitory life, moving and
moving, moving. So I didn't write it in any one place.
LAMB: There's a story in here about this, which is, again, out
of context with what we're talking about. But at--at what
point did this come in her life?
Prof. GRACE: That was soon after she started her crusade,
when she did her hatchetation in Topeka, which was in
Prof. GRACE: Her hatchetation, which was her word that she
substituted for agitation. That's hatchetation. Extreme
circumstances, she called--she--she said, called for extreme
agitation and activism. So hatchetation, yeah. So once she
started that, she got all these calls from Broadway, from
Vaudeville, from Shitakwa, from college universities, `Carry
Nation, come, tell us about your crusade.' Because she was a
very comedic, lively entertainer. This is something we don't
know about her either. She wasn't, you know, just a kind of
flattened-out, pinched-face, blue-nosed puritan. She had life
to her. And people like to go to--to her performances. So the
college campuses just loved it.
So the folks at New Haven, the male students at Yale, called
her up--or sent her a telegram. They didn't call her up. They
sent her a telegram and said, `Please, come save us. Please,
come to New Haven. You wouldn't believe what we have to
eat in the cafeterias. We have to eat meals that are soaked
with brandy sauce and champagne sauce and all kinds of
liquor-lubed meals.' Of course, they were teasing her. They
wanted a show. They wanted her to come and--and have a
b--blast with her. And I think part of her knew that. They
knew that she was--having fun with her. But she got on the
train because she thought, `OK, I could do some good here.
Get these boys at Yale straightened out.' So she gets off the
train, and, whoo, you know, people, you know, there to greet
her. They heard that she was coming.
So she did her speeches here and there, and then she goes to
hertel--hotel room, and she's sitting there quietly and she
hears a knock at the door. And these young men, these Yale
students come, and they say, `Oh, Carry, please, can we ask
a favor?' And she says, `Well, first, you have to sign an
abstinence pledge.' And so they did that. And they walk in
and they said, `We would really like a photograph with you.'
Pleased, she sits on the bed and invites them to sit around
her, and the lights go out so that the flash can occur. And
unbeknown to her, they bring out these gin glasses and beer
steins and--and cigarettes. And so there's the picture of--of
Carry Nation. It still is in New Haven at Maury's Club.
LAMB: She looks like she's smoking herself there, I think.
Prof. GRACE: Well, exactly. That's right. They drew in a
certain thing. You can tell it's not quite in her hand. But
it's--it's close there, yes.
LAMB: And she actually looks happier in this picture than any
picture in the book.
Prof. GRACE: Yeah.
LAMB: Can you explain that?
Prof. GRACE: Well, I--I think she was--she was having fun.
She was play--she was--she was playful. But that--that
image of her--well, you know, a lot of photographs that were
taken during her time, people weren't asked to say `cheese'
and smile and laugh. They tended to be serious.
LAMB: Do you teach her in your classes?
Prof. GRACE: Occasionally, I'll bring her in when the subject
calls for it. If we're talking about the WCTU, the Women's
Christian Temperance Union, which was, of course, very
important to 19th century politics and women. I'll bring her in.
LAMB: Back now to the beginning. We know what she did.
How did--what led up to her caring so much about alcohol?
Prof. GRACE: This--this is a crucial question. And for--for her
biographer, this is a crucial question. Why that issue? You
know, here you have a passionate woman who is very lively
and--and very religious and driven. So why alcohol? That is a
crucial question. It's a complex question. She fell in love when
she was in her early 20s. She fell in love with a man, and she
never really loved anyone with the same degree of idealism
and--and romantic passion as she did this man, Charles Gloyd.
And he was an alcoholic. She didn't know it. Her parents tried
to tell her. And soon after, they were married, he would come
home in a drunken state. And she smelled it on his breath. He
was withdrawn, and they were married a very short time and
then he died. So it--this is a very tragic story. And she writes
about in her diary for years afterwards, she's still going to
her--to his grave years afterwards in sorrow.
LAMB: Here's a picture of her when she was about how old?
She's called Carry Moore here.
Prof. GRACE: Yeah, 20, 21. It's right at the time where she's
meeting Charles Gloyd and--and they make a decision to get
LAMB: Sixteen months married. He was an alcoholic.
Prof. GRACE: He was an alcoholic, and he was a doctor and
was trying to get established with a practice in a little town in
Holden, Missouri. And the pressure was on him to get this
practice established because her parents didn't like him, and
they pressured her and said, `You've got to get him--you
know, we're not going to let you marry him until we can see
that he's really going to take care of you.' So the pressure
was on him. And he just--he got--he got pretty sick and died.
LAMB: He was, like, seven years, six years older than her?
Prof. GRACE: Yes, that's right.
LAMB: So he dies. But be--before we go on, what were her
parents like and what was her--you know, what was it like for
her? Because you have a whole section in there about slaves
and the impact that that had on her.
Prof. GRACE: Yes. Her childhood years are really complicated
to sort out because her diary doesn't address those. So, you
know, as a biographer, I had to put a lot of pieces together.
And if she were here today, I would want to ask her more
about that. You know, `What was it like to be with your
parents? What was your childhood like?' But she did have a
very complicated childhood. Her parents were not an ordinary
pair, I don't think. Her father was a farmer. He'd lost his first
wife after having several children, and then married a woman
named Mary Campbell. And Mary was several years younger
than he was, and she, too, had been married before and
suffered the loss of a husband and two children. So, you
know, both of them came to their marriage in grief, I think.
And there's this whole part of the mythology of Carry Nation
that her mother was a lunatic, that her mother believed that
she was Queen Victoria, that she hallucinated and, you
know--and that this really is the genetic reason why Carry
Nation started smashing is because her mother was a lunatic
and so Carry Nation was a lunatic. Well, there isn't a lot of
evidence for that. There's evidence that Carry Nation had a
difficult relationship with her mother, like a lot of children do,
that she found her mother somewhat imperious, somewhat
picky in terms of taste. And she didn't, apparently, like to be
around her daughter, Carry, who was the eldest daughter of
George and Mary. She had Carry sleep with the Africans who
the family enslaved. And so she spent a lot of time with the
LAMB: Well, what did she learn from the slaves about religion
and--and--and the way...
Prof. GRACE: Yeah, it was really important. It's really
important in terms of her religious development. Because here
you have her father and mother, who are participating in a
very rationally oriented, cognitive, withdrawing religion. You
know, very kind of rigid, you know, you sit there and you
listen. And then she goes to the meetings, which were not
allowed--OK?--the meetings of the enslaved would get
together, oftentimes outside or in the cabins that they had,
and there would be a lot of emotional expression and singing
and--and what was termed shouting. Carry really resonated
with the shouting. This kind of, you know, very
self-expressive and transcendent, ecstatic experience. And so
she had these two competing, opposing experiences of religion
early on. That--and both of them formed her. She kept them.
Again, she's a complex person, not the flat Carry Nation that
we hear about. She's this complex person who both
experiences religion in terms of pragmatics and the heart. And
it's the heart that she got from the enslaved of the Moore
LAMB: So after her first husband dies at--at 16 months--Had
they had children, by the way?
Prof. GRACE: They had one. They had Charlene, who's named
after Charlie Gloyd, Charlene.
LAMB: What happened next to her life?
Prof. GRACE: Well, she mourned for a series of years, really,
four to five years.
LAMB: Was she working in this time period?
Prof. GRACE: She was working. She had gone to
Lawrenceburg--Warrensburg, Missouri, for the Normal School,
which was where she got a teaching certificate. And my
guess is she was probably one of the few women there who'd
been married. Mostly, that was single women who were going,
and so already, you know, she stood out. And, I mean, she
had to support herself. Here she was a single mother with no
money. She had rejected her parents, basically, in marrying
this man, and then he disappears. So she's--she's on her own,
except for the mother-in-law, Mother Gloyd, who she was
with until Mother Gloyd died. So they were together as part of
the same family unit for decades.
LAMB: When does Mr. Nation come in the picture?
Prof. GRACE: Mr. Nation comes into the picture, actually,
quite a lot earlier on than previous biographers have said. He
and Carry knew each other when they were living in Missouri,
and she was married to Charlie. David and his wife came down
from Indiana to take a ministry position. David was--became
the minister of a Campbellite congregation in--in Holden. And
so they would have gone to the same church, they were
neighbors, according to the census records. And so his wife
died, her husband died, and then her teaching career didn't
work out, so she needed money and he needed a mother in
his home. And so they worked out this agreement to marry,
join their lives together. And it was a great disappointment to
her, the marriage.
Prof. GRACE: Well, probably to both of them, actually. To her,
it was a disappointment because she was a person, as I
perceive her, anyway, who was passionate and who wanted
that returned. And he wasn't that kind of person. And I think
she had that expectation that they could build a life together
that was mutually fulfilling and mutually religious, focused
around ministry. And even though he was a minister, she
didn't think he was a "real minister," you know, a real
Christian. And for him, it was disappointing, I think, because
what he wanted was a housekeeper. He wanted a mother for
his children. And she turned out to, you know, be a very
LAMB: Did he have an alcohol problem?
Prof. GRACE: No. Not as far as I can find any evidence for.
LAMB: Was there an alcohol problem in her life after she
married in--anywhere in it?
Prof. GRACE: Well, Charlene, her daughter--and I haven't
been able to corroborate this, so it's just a, you know,
guessing--may have been on some kind of substance to deal
with the physical problems that she had. I don't know for
sure. But it was a ki--you know, alcohol was a constant
problem because Carry Nation was a woman who had a lot of
people come into her hotel. She got to know them, especially
men, and she had one friend in particular that she was very
close to that she met at her hotel who did die of alcohol. So it
was a constant issue for her.
LAMB: Here's that photograph in the book. What's this?
Prof. GRACE: That is a front-page article of a New York paper
in 1901 where David Nation--you can see his picture
there--says that he's mutinying at last and that his wife has
ignored him. You know, she doesn't cook his meals anymore.
She's deserted, she's gone off on her crusade and, `She
won't listen to me anymore. And I'm going to file for divorce.
I've had enough of it.'
LAMB: What happened?
Prof. GRACE: Well, what happened was that his claim to--for
the divorce to be on the grounds of both desertion and
cruelty did not happen, and the--the court granted him the
divorce on the grounds of desertion because Carry said,
`Well, I'm not coming back to David. I'm happy to have my
own career, and I don't plan to come back.' But his claim that
she had been cruel to him throughout their life, that she'd
been bossy and that she'd left him in his sick bed and she
hadn't cooked meals and this and that, the court said, `No,
we won't grant that.' So, you know, they split up their
possessions, and they went their separate ways. And he died
a couple of years later.
LAMB: What different jobs did Carry Nation have in her life?
Prof. GRACE: That's such a good question because she
had--she had a lot of jobs. First of all, I think one has to say
that she didn't want to work. Any woman growing up in her
time period expected to marry a man who was economically
provident enough that she wouldn't have to work. So it was
extreme disappointment to her to have to work. She started
out teaching. We've talked about that. And then when they
moved down--she and David moved down to Texas because
he wanted to farm, that didn't work. They were in constant
fear of debt and not being able to pay their taxes. So she was
forced to sell farm products--butter, eggs and this and that.
When didn't--that didn't bring in enough income, so she went
to downtown East Columbia and rented a hotel and started
feeding people and having people stay there, travelers mostly.
And that's at the point in the divorce petition where David
Nation says she became bossy is when she started to support
the family. That's interesting. And then when they moved
back up to Kansas, because he got a ministry job, and that
failed and they moved to Oklahoma to dry--to--on the
Cherokee Strip there, and again, he had a ministry job, but it
wasn't bringing in enough income. And so she became an
osteopath, one of the early osteopaths, which was a form
of--even though it had a strongly metaphysical content--it
was a form of medicine and--and healing.
LAMB: How long did she do that?
Prof. GRACE: She did that probably till the end of her life,
probably about 10 years. But the most concentrated years
were before her smashing. For several years there, about four
or five years, she...
LAMB: Are they considered doctors?
Prof. GRACE: Well, today, yes, they are. They're part of the
American Medical Association. But back then, when it first
started in the 1890s, no, they were considered quacks, you
know, quackery and not scientific at all.
LAMB: Was she trained?
Prof. GRACE: She was trained. I still haven't been able to find
out where. She was very familiar with the Kirksville, Missouri,
American School of Osteopathy because she had planned to
go there. But I can't find traces or records that she actually
was a student there. There were other places, satellite places
that she could have gone to.
LAMB: There--I know there's some other things, but there's
some faces in here I want to show because I want you to tell
us who they are, some interesting-looking people from back in
those days. Who is this woman?
Prof. GRACE: Yes, this is a fascinating woman. There she's in
her early 20s. This is Mabel Madeleine Southard, another
Kansas woman that I and a colleague are writing about.
LAMB: A--another book?
Prof. GRACE: Yes. She left 90--over 90 of her personal
journals with a family relative who has now deposited them in
Cambridge, Massachusetts. And so these are rich, and she
has a lot of information in there about Carry Nation and
Kansas. And she was a woman who founded, in about
ei--ni--1918, 1919, an organization that still exists today
called the American Association of Woman Ministers, one of
the first organizations that got woman who were--women who
were in ministry together to meet and to advocate for each
LAMB: Who is this woman?
Prof. GRACE: This is Myra McHenry. You can tell from her face
that she had quite an attitude, and she was much like Carry
Nation in that. They were both women who had a lot of grit,
so to say, as they would say in Kansas. She had her own
smashing career. But unlike Carry Nation, she didn't have the
same mediagenic, comedic performative way with people
and--and so she wasn't as popular.
LAMB: There's also another man that you allude to all the
time--well, not all the time, but several times in the book, and
the Re--Reverend Charles Sheldon.
Prof. GRACE: Yes, this is a very interesting man, for our time,
because I see hi--the title of his book. When my students
come into class, they'll have WWJD on their bracelet or on
their backpack or little necklaces, WWJD. Charles Sheldon in
the 1890s wrote a book called "What Would Jesus Do?" And
it's a question that, I think, typifies the Kansas religiosity that
focuses on morality. `What do you do?' It's not so much what
you believe or doctrine, it's, `Don't drink beer, don't flirt, don't
raffle.' And I'm not sure exactly why it has resonance with
young people these days. But this WWJD is everywhere.
LAMB: Well, you not only see it there, you see it from some
politicians from time to time.
Prof. GRACE: Oh, OK.
LAMB: I mean, I've seen them use that. What would Jesus do?
Prof. GRACE: What would Jesus do?
LAMB: How prominent is that in other people you've met?
Prof. GRACE: Well...
LAMB: Have you heard it very often besides your students?
Prof. GRACE: Well, yeah. And then I hear, you know,
subversive renditions of it. You know, What would Colin do?
What would, you know, any kind of almighty being do, playing
with it. I mean, I'm--I'm--I'm not sure why--why the
resonance for our own time. I mean, there is that--that draw
to focus on something concrete. `OK, if I do this, I'm OK.' You
know, when we get into the realm of religious belief and
theology, that's--that's kind of complicated. It's--it's nice to
LAMB: So in her lifetime, she was a preacher.
Prof. GRACE: She was a preacher.
LAMB: She ran a hotel or owned them.
Prof. GRACE: She ran a hotel, yeah.
LAMB: She was an osteopath.
Prof. GRACE: That's right.
LAMB: She--what else? She was a Vaudevillian.
Prof. GRACE: She was. She performed--she performed in
Broadway. She performed in Vaudeville.
LAMB: How did that work? I mean, what--what was
the--what was her talent when it got...
Prof. GRACE: Well, it was really interesting to read these
accounts of her because you--you don't picture this woman
with her nun-looking attire and a Bible in her hand in
Vaudeville. But people really resonated with her. They really
resonated with her. She would, you know, come on to stage
after you'd had the humorists and the women in their red
taffeta, much abbreviated skirts, as the New York papers
reported it. And here after that, you would have, you know,
this woman come on with her big black dress and her--and her
Bible, and she'd start preaching to these people. You say,
`You are utter sots. You know, you're ruining your lives,' and
they would cheer her.
LAMB: How much money did she make--Do you think?--in her
lifetime or maybe in other ways? Did she...
Prof. GRACE: She...
LAMB: ...when she died, did she have money?
Prof. GRACE: She didn't leave as much as she would think.
She had given most of her speech--her performance
proceedings away to the poor people who were living in the
towns where she had her performances. So, for example, if
she went to Atlantic City and she raised--you know, she
spoke and there were a lot of fees that came in from that,
she gave it to the poor kids there. You know, she did that.
Now when she sold her hatchets, she made money. And when
she bought her property, she made money. But she left the
sum--I think I have it in there--like $9,000 or something, that
was to be split up, some going to the Free Methodist Church,
which was very influential in her life, and then some to her
grandchildren and a niece that she'd traveled to Great Britain
LAMB: Just a little bit of time left. And if you can give us just
a quick answer on some of these things. I wrote a bunch of
terms down that you have through the book: Mother Nation,
what's that mean?
Prof. GRACE: Mother Nation represents the fact that people
responded to her as a mother because she presented herself
in this motherly, caring way.
LAMB: Moral suasion.
Prof. GRACE: Moral suasion. Moral suasion was a--was an
approach, an--of reform where mostly women said, `You can't
change things if you get out there and agitate. You just have
to persuade and work through with people.' And she said,
`Forget moral suasion. That doesn't work anymore with this
Prof. GRACE: A jointist was a--a word that, you know, she
was a person who ran an illegal "joint." She preferred donkey
bed mate of Satan, but the jointist was a common term back
LAMB: White ribboner.
Prof. GRACE: A white ribboner was a--a person who was a
remember of the WCTU, the Women's Christian Temperance
Union. And so you would have a white ribbon here.
LAMB: A new Deborah.
Prof. GRACE: A new Deborah. Deborah is a--a woman, who, in
the Hebrew Scriptures, is a judge. And she's one of the few
women in the--the Judeo-Christian Bible who are--who was
violent. She goes out to wars. She's a military figure. And so
Carry Nation latched on to her as--as a model and then other
people took--took that.
LAMB: How much does she relate to Mary Baker Eddy and
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth?
Prof. GRACE: A very good question and very complicated. I
can't answer that very quickly. A lot of similarities, obviously,
the focus on women's rights. But some differences because
she was so religious. These other women that you mentioned,
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, for example, is a very good example.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Carry Nation would have
disagreed very much on religion, but it was Elizabeth Cady
Stanton who said, `You know what? Women have been
arguing for 100 years for suffrage. Maybe now it's time for
some other kind of action.'
LAMB: You point out in your book that LBJ and Ronald Reagan
were members of the Disciples of Christ or the Church of
Prof. GRACE: Mm-hmm. The Disciples of Christ.
LAMB: ...that she was at one point?
Prof. GRACE: Yes, she was throughout her lo--her whole life.
LAMB: And you say you--are you still active in that church?
Prof. GRACE: No, I'm not. I left the church. It was a very
painful decision for me. I left the church two years ago.
Prof. GRACE: It's a painful topic for me to talk about. But--but
the--the issue, it was also the issue that Carry Nation had
with the church, which is women were silent, were silenced,
not allowed to participate as fully hu--full human beings.
LAMB: You teach religion at the University of Redlands.
Prof. GRACE: I do.
LAMB: Are you religious still in any way?
Prof. GRACE: What does that mean, really? I don't know.
LAMB: I mean, are you a member of an organized church?
Prof. GRACE: I am not a member of an organized religion or
church or spiritual community.
LAMB: So when you look back at this Carry Nation book and
your experience, what's it all add up to? Obviously, it had
some impact on you.
Prof. GRACE: It had a huge impact on me. As my life changed
and I went through certain things, I understood her more and
I understood her less. But I understood myself
certainly--certainly more at the end of it.
LAMB: Would you have liked her, do you think?
Prof. GRACE: I think I would have found her a--a real turnoff,
which I'm fairly blunt about in the beginning. I--I--I--I don't
agree with her coerciveness on morality. I don't agree with
that at all. But I loved her--her liveliness and her passion and
her commitment to her cause. So it would have been, you
know, some yes, some no.
LAMB: Fran Grace is our guest and our author today, and our
book looks like this. "Carry A. Nation: Retelling the Life,"
University of Indiana Press. Thank you very much.
Prof. GRACE: Thank you. Thanks a lot.
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