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Axe-wielding prohibitionist dies


On this day in 1911, Carry Nation, perhaps the most famous prohibitionist in American history, died in Kansas. Born in Kentucky in 1846, she lived in Texas for several years as a child in the 1860s and again as an adult from 1879 to 1889. While in Texas, Nation had numerous mystic experiences. She came to believe that she had been elected by God and that she spoke through divine inspiration. After her husband, a sometime reporter for the Houston Post, ran afoul of the feuding sides in the Jaybird-Woodpecker War, they relocated to Kansas. In 1892 she helped organize a local chapter of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and was appointed jail evangelist. In the name of home protection she began a crusade against alcohol and tobacco that lasted the rest of her life. Claiming the justification that saloons were illegal in prohibitionist Kansas, she wrecked "joints" and berated persons who sold liquor. In 1900 she adopted the hatchet as her tool of destruction. The sale of souvenir hatchets and earnings from nationwide lecture tours allowed her to pay the fines that resulted from more than thirty arrests. Although she was a national leader of the extremist element of the prohibitionist movement, she never had the unqualified support of the WCTU or of any other national organization. In the final years of her life she was increasingly afflicted with mental illness, and died in a Leavenworth hospital.

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