Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Carrie Nation

In 1910, the hatchet-wielding, bar-smashing temperance crusader Carrie Nation came to Butte. At that time Butte had 275 saloons; even Mayor Charles Nevin owned a bar. Booze joints in nearby Anaconda sported signs that read, “All Nations welcome except Carrie,” while reformers welcomed her with open arms. Onlookers cheered as the stout sixty-three-year-old Mrs. Nation, with a flourish and a crowd in tow, charged down the length of Butte’s notorious Pleasant Alley.

Carrie Nation flourishes her hatchet in this 1909 photo.
Kansas State Historical Society, B Nation, Carrie *48
She had some difficulty communicating with the resident prostitutes because few of them spoke English. At the end of the alley back on Mercury Street, she burst into the Irish World, a well-known parlor house, and met her match in madam May Maloy. The two got into a scuffle, and Maloy booted Mrs. Nation out the door with a well-placed kick. She emerged with her bonnet askew, suffering from a wrenched elbow. It was a moment Maloy’s patrons savored, and they celebrated with drinks all around. Thus Carrie Nation made not so much as a single convert in Butte. In fact, Butte likes to claim that Maloy’s was the last saloon Carrie Nation ever set foot in. While that’s not exactly true, it may have marked a turning point in her career.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go

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