Carry Nation was born as Carrie Moore on November 25, 1846 in Garrard County, Kentucky. Although her given name was Carrie, she used it interchangeably with Carry throughout her life. During her childhood, she was often ill and the family moved around the country several times, before settling in Belton, Missouri. Her mother was delusional and declared that she was Queen Victoria on numerous occasions. During these bouts of insanity, Carry was taken care of by the family's slaves.

In 1865, she met a man named Dr. Charles Gloyd and fell in love with him. They were married on November 21, 1867 and the situation declined from there. Charles was strongly addicted to alcohol, a problem that placed great strain on their marriage. While Carry was pregnant with their first child, she left him to live on her own and Charles died less than a year later, probably because of cirrhosis or alcohol poisoning.

Carry decided that she wanted to become a teacher and earned her teaching license from the state. However, she was not able to make enough money in teaching to support herself and her child properly. She met a man named Dr. David Nation, who was an attorney, minister, and editor for a newspaper and once again fell in love. They were married on December 27, 1877 and moved to a plantation in Houston, Texas.

David became active in the Jaybird-Woodpecker War (a feud between two political factions for the control of Fort Bend County), which eventually forced the family to move north to Medicine Lodge, Kansas in 1889. David worked as a preacher at the local church, while Carry managed a hotel. While there, she became involved in the Women's Christian Temperance Union, which sought to make alcohol illegal.

Over the years, her involvement in the temperance movement slowly progressed from supportive to militant. She decided to take action against purveyors of alcoholic beverages and proclaimed herself as having a divine ordination to end alcohol consumption. At one point, she described herself as "a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what he doesn't like."

Carry, standing 6 feet tall and weighing 175 pounds was not a person to mess with. She started entering bars and singing hymns or reading from the bible as she smashed up beer bottles and barrels with her signature hatchet, much to the horror of bar patrons. The government did not sympathize with her cause and she was jailed about thirty times between 1900 and 1910.

Despite her unpopularity with people that frequented saloons, she gained a large amount of recognition from Christians and prohibitionists. As a result, she was able to pay for all of her fines by giving paid lectures and selling souvenir hatchets to fans. Later, an opera was made based on her life story.

After being hospitalized for some time, she died in Leavenworth, Kansas on June 9, 1911.