Online Exhibits - Carry A. Nation, 1901 Story
The Famous and Original Bar Room Smasher
"Boys, boys, come and let me in"
Mrs. Carrie Nation visited the Topeka saloons to-day. She called on four of them, and if they didn't enjoy her visit the crowd that followed her did. She offered no violence, she said no prayers, she sang no hymns. She simply called to have a talk to "those poor, silly boys who don't know how the devil has blinded them. . . ."
At each saloon there was a great commotion when she approached and the doors were hastily barricaded. But this merely amused Mrs. Nation. In spite of the seriousness of her purpose it made her laugh to see how much afraid of her these men were. She went up to the door and knocked on it and called in her Southern voice: "Boys, boys, come and let me in. Your mother wants you. Your mother would like to talk to you." When she was still denied admission, she said in a loud voice: "Aren't you going to let your mother in, boys? She wants to talk to you." But the saloon men continued to pile up furniture and heavy things in front of the door. "I won't harm you, boys. I won't, indeed, you're in a naughty trick, but I just want to talk to you. Now come out and talk to your mother."
There was something in her voice--she has a soft, deep voice--something in her appearance, or in what she said that had a strange effect. The saloon men began to take away the barricades and to peep at her through the cracks in the door. At the same time she was peeping through to get a look at them. When they saw her eye they jumped back and began to grin and looked very foolish. At last she persuaded them to come out on the sidewalk. She begged them to let her in, promising not to harm anything, but they were afraid of her. . . .
"Poor boys," she said, her face full of amusement and kindliness. "I'm sorry for you, boys. You look so much ashamed of yourselves. I'm not mad at you, boys. I'm not hating you a bit, even when I come around with my hatchet. I'm treating you just as I would treat one of my own boys if I found him with something that would do him harm.
"I like you, yes, I do. Needn't laugh. I like you. If you get into trouble all you have to do is to tell Mother Nation and she'll be around quick enough to do what she can for you. If you get sick and tell Mother Nation, she'll come around and nurse you. And if you die Mother Nation will be the one who will close your eyes in death and see that you get a Christian burial.
"But boys, you mustn't stay in this business any longer. I give you fair warning. Just you close up and get out of this business. You are harming yourselves and other boys and I won't let you do that. If you don't get out of this, boys, I'll be around in a few days and just break up your wicked little shops for you."
Astonishing as it may seem, incredible as it may appear, these saloon men were strongly moved by the talk Mrs. Nation gave them. She meant what she said--they understood that. They knew she was not resentful and did not despise them just as they understood how resolved she was to make them close their joints.
It was a curious scene to observe. It was interesting to see the countenances of the saloon men. They showed little bravado. Those who had been blustering about what they would do if the saloon wrecker came around became as meek as lambs and looked very much ashamed of themselves. Mrs. Nation very much enjoyed their discomfiture. Her eyes were laughing all the time. . . .
Carry A. Nation is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History.
- How Well Do You Know Carry Nation? - Fun quiz.
- Hatchetations and Home Defenders - Why reformers smashed saloons.
- Paying the Bills - Selling hatchet pins, buttons, and newsletters.
- Taking on the Role of Crusader - Personal tragedies in Nation's life.
- Other Crusades - Women's health, woman suffrage, and anti-smoking.
- An International Figure - People all over the world followed Nation's work.
- She Hath Done What She Could - Final days in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
- An American Icon - Carry Nation is a household name today.
- Temperance Timeline - Timeline of alcohol reform.
Contact us at KansasMuseum@kshs.org