Fran Grace
Fran Grace
Carry A. Nation: Retelling the Life
ISBN: 0253338468
Carry A. Nation: Retelling the Life
This landmark biography of a much maligned and misunderstood figure will be welcomed by those interested in the history of women, reform and religion in 19th- and 20th-century America. Early biographers dismissed the axe-wielding temperance reformer as crazy, fanatical, undersexed, oversexed or menopausal; University of Redlands religious studies professor Grace makes clear that the story was far more complicated, and much less Freudian, than that. The book is worth the price of admission simply because of Grace's admirable detective work; she draws on an immense body of primary sources that earlier scholars never bothered to tap. But the biography's most important contribution is Grace's insistence that Nation can't be understood without delving into her piety. Reared by Campbellite parents, Nation, who called herself a "bulldog of Jesus," also drew on Holiness religion, the Salvation Army, Catholicism and Methodism. The biography, however, is not flawless. Grace too often sets up historiographic straw men, and her self-conscious positioning of herself as a feminist historian who is recovering Nation from the condescension of male historians is tiring; she should have made this point once in the introduction and then let her work speak for itself. The flashes of polish in Grace's prose (Nation "carved her way into the twentieth century") balance out less felicitous academese (e.g., the term "genderalities"). In all, this is a worthy portrait of the notorious smasher.
—from the publisher's website
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TRANSCRIPT
Carry A. Nation: Retelling the Life
Program Air Date: October 14, 2001

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 smashing saloons.

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 1911.
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 I...
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 her?
Prof. GRACE: Absolutely.
LAMB: When?
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 before Kiowa.
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 Carry Nation.
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 Washington, DC.
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 to.'
LAMB: But this...
Prof. GRACE: And Carry's justification was that it was a divine calling.
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 it?
Prof. GRACE: I have had my hands on it many times, and it's--it's--it's--it's a very special experience.
LAMB: Why?
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 sex-repressed.
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 like Kansas.
LAMB: You say something between 25 and 30 percent of the tax revenue in Kansas came from liquor sales back in those days?
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 were gone.

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 motherhood.
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, inverted.
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 recovered.
LAMB: How long did you work on this book?
Prof. GRACE: I've been working on this book for seven years, I think.
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 granddaughter...
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 life.
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 Nation's life?
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 apartments.
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.
LAMB: 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, actually.
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 would sell.
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 months later.
LAMB: First rocks. I mean, she carried them--how'd she carry them?
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.
LAMB: So...
Prof. GRACE: ...the hatchet women.
LAMB: ...how many saloons do you think she went in in her life?
Prof. GRACE: I have no idea.
LAMB: Hundreds?
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 were illegal.
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 them.
LAMB: At?
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 February 1901.
LAMB: Hatchetation?
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. Not--not often.
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 married.
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 family's slaves.
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 family.
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.
LAMB: Why?
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 assertive woman.
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 other.
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 focus on...
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 with.
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 alcohol problem.'
LAMB: Jointist.
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 then.
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 Christ...
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.
LAMB: Why?
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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