This is Carrie Nation, the wildly scary temperance crusader from the Prohibition era.
Back in the early 1900s, Carrie led what today would be called an insurgency against the bars and gin joints of her native Kansas in an unsuccessful, yet highly dramatic, attempt to save the lives of the men who frequented such places, whom she saw as hopelessly addicted to the drink. But to Carrie the real victims were their wives and children, who sat at home in abject poverty while the louts sinfully drank away their paycheques.
At first none of the men in the bar would think much of the old woman who shuffled through the door in her long black dress, a group of sombre followers trailing along in her wake. The only thing slightly amiss would be her size – at six feet, 180 pounds, Nation cut an imposing figure, indeed. And this was before she got her “reputation.”
Suddenly, Nation would declare to the clientele that she was about to rescue them from “the fate of drunkards.” Then the women with her would start to pray while Carrie began one of her so-called “hatchetations,” during which she would whip out her weapon of choice, a hatchet if you hadn’t already guessed, and commence smashing liquor bottles. If they weren’t close enough, she would smash tables, chairs, glasses, pianos. Whatever was within reach, really.
When Carrie Nation appears on my blog, looking so lovely, it usually means there is news. Today the news is twofold: one is that I am finally embarking on the final chapter of the Lake Erie book. Yep, it’s about rumrunning.
Carrie is also here to tell you that I have entered into something of an agreement in principle with Dundurn Press, here in Toronto, to publish this sucker. We haven’t gotten into the fine details yet, but it appears that, barring some sort of catastrophe (a hatchetation, let's say), it is on its way out into the public. So look for it in a bookstore, library, or maybe even a gin joint near you a little less than a year from now, in May of ‘08
And you’d better buy yourself a copy. Make that two.