because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Clarina Nichols

An observer might have guessed they were looking at an in-your-face woman when Clarina Nichols divorced her first husband in Vermont in 1843, taking her three children with her, and then married her boss -- a newspaper editor much older than her. When he became ill, she took over the newspaper herself and began to use it to push agendas for which she had developed great passion: especially women's rights and the abolition of slavery.

Then, when Kansas moved in the direction of legalizing slavery in 1854, Nichols packed up the whole family and dragged them all out there to fight the good fight in the not yet settled West. Her aged husband kindly died the following year, freeing her up to spend even more time outside the home as a newspaper editor, speaker, organizer, and conductor on the Underground Railroad, while her sons joined John Brown in his war on slavery.

Despite the fact that Nichols' role in freedom struggles is often overlooked, Susan B. Anthony included an entire chapter on her in her book on the History of Woman Suffrage and the best known biography of Nichols is entitled Revolutionary Heart. In one of her speeches, Nichols has been quoted as saying, "Though I bought the dress I'm wearing with my own money, my husband by law owns it, not of his own will, but by a law adopted by bachelors and other women's husbands. I don't think it's fair for men to tease women about wanting to wear men's pants until men give up their right to own women's skirts." Sounds like an in-your-face woman, all right.

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