Teaching Students About Carry Nation
Carry Nation is a name that many students may not be familiar with, but this historic figure can offer a unique window into the women’s suffrage movement and the fight for temperance in America. As a teacher, it can be valuable to introduce students to this colorful and passionate activist who left an indelible mark on American history.
First and foremost, it’s important to contextualize who Carry Nation was and why she became such a significant figure. Born Carry Amelia Moore in 1846, she was one of 10 siblings raised in Kentucky. She married young, at age 19, and had a rocky relationship with her first husband. Later, she remarried and moved to Kansas, where her life began to take a political turn.
Kansas played a key role in the temperance movement, which sought to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol. Carry Nation became a vocal and radical supporter of this cause, taking it upon herself to literally smash bars and taverns with a hatchet in order to make a statement. She was arrested numerous times, but she never backed down from her beliefs.
Carry Nation’s actions were controversial and often extreme, but they sparked conversation and brought attention to the temperance movement. Her unusual tactics and personal story make for a fascinating topic of discussion in the classroom. Here are a few ideas for how to introduce students to the legacy of Carry Nation:
1. Role-Playing: Have students dress up as Carry Nation or other suffrage activists and participate in a mock debate about temperance. Students can take different sides and argue for or against the ban on alcohol.
2. Primary Source Analysis: Provide students with quotes from Carry Nation or articles about her actions. Ask them to analyze the language and imagery she uses to get her point across, and how it might have resonated with people at the time.
3. Historical Fiction: Encourage students to write a short story or skit imagining what it might have been like to witness one of Carry Nation’s “hatchetations” firsthand. What might a bartender or patron have been thinking during an event like this? How would they have reacted?
4. Debate: Hold a classroom debate about whether Carry Nation’s tactics were effective or ethical. Students should be encouraged to take a nuanced view and consider both sides of the argument.
Introducing students to Carry Nation and the temperance movement can be an engaging way to introduce them to a key moment in American history. Her story is a testament to the power of individual activism and the ways in which social change can be achieved, even in the face of opposition.