Thursday, Dec. 04, 2008

Hatchet Job

Enforcement of Prohibition was originally assigned to the IRS, but even before the passage of the 18th amendment, one Kentucky woman took it upon herself to demolish barrooms across the Great Plains for serving "The Devil's Brew." Born in 1846, Carry Nation earned a national and notorious reputation as a vigilante. Standing at a formidable 6-feet-tall and customarily clad in black-and-white, Nation would appear in saloons across Kansas and Oklahoma — sometimes accompanied by a hymn-singing posse — and proceed to swing a hatchet with God-like fury, smashing every bar fixture and booze bottle in sight. She even once invaded the Kansas Governor's chambers to rail against the evils of alcohol. (She also derided tobacco, foreign cuisine, corsets, short skirts and fraternal orders). Her first marriage likely contributed to such fanatical fervor; she left her alcoholic husband after two months of wedded un-bliss. Less than a decade after her death, the temperance movement of which she had been such an integral part — though she was later expelled — finally succeeded. The free-wheeling, hard-drinking country had gone dry. And almost over night, America became the land of criminal opportunity.