Who’s afraid of Carry Nation?

Carrie_NationOn Monday, we were discussing the temperance and Prohibition movements in my introduction to American religious history. One of our readings was Carry Nation’s account of how God inspired her to go to Kiowa and smash saloons. When I popped onto the Internet to show students this photo of Nation, a male student in the front row expressed surprise that our reading had described men as cowering in the corner when she started doing her work. Why were they so afraid? She looks like such a little old woman, he said.

“She was throwing bricks!” I replied. “If an elderly woman walked through our classroom doorway and started hurling bricks, I’m willing to bet your reaction would not be to rush her, no matter how diminutive she was.”

He didn’t look convinced, so I turned toward the blackboard as if I were about to write something down–then I whipped around and flung the chalk across the room. It smashed into pieces against the wall (safely above students’ heads, I hasten to add). After the startled cries had transitioned into nervous laughter, I said, “That was a piece of chalk, people. Imagine what you’d be feeling right now if I’d thrown a brick.”

Little old women with bricks and hatchets need to get some respect, dammit.

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