Saturday, February 16, 2013

25. The Carrie Nation Quilt

The Carrie Nation Quilt by
Becky Brown

This double four-patch was given the name "The Carrie Nation Quilt" in the Kansas City Star's quilt column in 1940. Carrie Nation died in 1911 but she was still famous three decades later.

Carry or Carrie Nation with hatchet and Bible

Born in Kentucky in 1846, she moved with her family to western Missouri. After the Civil War she married an alcoholic war veteran who died in 1869. Carrie believed that the personal was the political. Rather than blaming an irresponsible, ill husband, she blamed society for permitting him to drink. The solution to alcohol abuse was the prohibition of sales and possession of spirits.

The WCTU, the Women's Christian Temperance Union
was the leading anti-liquor organization.

With her second husband she moved to Kansas in 1890. The state had recently passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting manufacture and sale of liquor, a law ignored more than enforced. Nation took enforcement into her own hands. As leader of the local Women's Christian Temperance Union she burst into "open saloons", destroying windows, fixtures and furniture with rocks and bricks. In 1901 she attacked a "joint" with a hatchet, finding a lasting image.

A trip to Wichita resulted in her arrest. The Topeka Capitol  reported on a jail house interview: " 'I came to Wichita expecting to get into trouble and here I am...I studied the law and asked competent lawyers if I can be prosecuted for destroying the property of the jointists and they say I cannot for the reason that the saloon men here have no rights under the state laws' ....She is considered eccentric at some times."

"Carrie Nation-Smasher," "A Dry Nation," "Carry A. Nation."
Nation changed her name-spelling to Carry for the
readymade slogan which she registered as a trademark.

Her "hatchetations" received international publicity, particularly after she partnered with James Furlong who managed her lecture tours. After her husband divorced her in 1901 she made a living selling small hatchets and photo portraits as she toured around the world, signing copies of her best-selling autobiography.

Eccentric, self-promoting or seriously unbalanced, Carrie Nation was the kind of reformer newspaper editors loved. She fit every stereotype of the unsexed harridan (one of her offenses was being nearly six feet tall.)

Her escapades were a not-so-subtle warning of what would happen if women got more political power. Women with a vote would vote for prohibition. One reason that the suffrage fight took decades to win was the well-financed opposition by those who manufactured and sold alcohol.

The Smasher's Mail was Nation's short-lived periodical.
Here's a complete run.

Her destruction of public property, willingness to be arrested over and over, and her marketing a movement with trinkets such as miniature hatchets predates similar behavior by militant suffragists. She was a trend setter in political publicity. Carrie Nation remains a household name thanks to her not-so-civil disobedience and skills in creating celebrity. 

"You refused me the vote and I had to use a rock." Carry A. Nation.

The Carrie Nation Quilt by
Becky Brown
She's fussy-cut some squares so they look like little bowties.

The double four-patch is one of the oldest quilt patterns.

As The Carrie Nation Quilt it's BlockBase #1105.

Cutting an 8" Finished Block
A - Cut 16 squares 1-1/2".
B - Cut 12 squares 2-1/2".

Cutting a 12" Finished Block
A - Cut 16 squares 2".

B - Cut 12 squares 3-1/2".

Piecing the Block

The Carrie Nation Quilt by
Georgann Eglinski

The Carrie Nation Quilt by
Dustin Cecil
Dustin rotated the small four-patches
so the block isn't quite so directional.

Woman with a hatchet pin

See an outline of Nation's life here at the Kansas Historical Society, which has a great collection of Nation items.
Read her autobiography The Use and Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation here:


  1. I love this post and I love this project...thank you sooo much Barbara for all the quilty fun and great education!

  2. Have a collection of the Carrie Nation Blocks to put together and have a friend who fits the Carrie Nation image who may receive it, with a full run down of the Lady the block is named after.

  3. I love the one with the bowties, because I didn't see that, I saw the lovely curves on both sides. Great blocks, wonderful history lesson.

  4. Will you be doing a "Elizabeth Cady Stanton" block?? I am doing a little talk about her at a forum at my church in March and thought it would be fun to have her block if there is one! If not, I am going to do a couple of the the project!

  5. Jay---I hadn't found any traditional block that seemed to go with Stanton. You could do the blocks for her co-workers Susan B. Anthony (10 New York), Lucy Stone (11) and Sarah Pellett (16).

  6. Thanks, Barbara...I like your suggestion...I have found all three of these ladies in the literature I am researching about Elizabeth.

  7. That was one "crazy" lady...was she a quilter too??!?!?