Carrie Nation: Temperance Among the Tap Dancers


A little known fact: temperance fanatic Carrie Nation, best known for breaking up bar room kegs with hatchets, spent some of her last years lecturing from the vaudeville stage.

Born on this day in 1846, she opened a local branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in Medicine Lodge, Kansas in 1889, and began her violent demonstrations soon thereafter. By the early twentieth century her notoriety was such that she could get bookings in vaudeville. As is almost invariably the case with such “non-entertaining” acts, she was not a hit with audiences. In 1909, someone threw an egg at her while she was on stage. What a waste. I’ve known many a gent who’d have been happy to catch the raw egg and plop it his whiskey with a bit of Worcestershire Sauce for an eye-opener! Ms. Nation passed away in 1911. Prohibition passed away in 1933 — right around the same time as vaudeville.

To find out more about the history of vaudeville, and those who toured the circuits like Carrie Nation, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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