Clarina Nichols

(Deb) Welcome back, folks. Well, no matter how you look at this year’s presidential race, we’re making history. Of course, Kansas has been making history with women and women’s rights from the very get-go. (Frank) Very much so, before we were even a state. I get to do a story about a young lady that kind of turned the state upside down a little bit. Actually, eventually got voting rights for women in the state of Kansas. Now it was still limited, which is what is interesting, but of course eventually then women were given full right to vote. (Deb) And of course Kansas has produced some incredible women. We’ve done a couple of segments on them. Georgia Neese Gray, a very important politician, she was Secretary of the Treasury. And of course Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker, whose contribution we just can’t overestimate. When she was inducted into the Kansas Hall of Fame along with Ed Asner, and Nancy, as many of you know is a tiny woman. She is very short. Ed Asner got up on the stand, the podium and he said, Nancy looks small, but she’s not small. [Laughter] (Deb) And of course what he meant was her presence and her personality. It was really incredible. (Frank) Well, and of course we really have had a lot of famous women because you got of course Carrie Nation, but she pretty much started prohibition a long, long time ago. (Deb) And then more recently of course Kathleen Sebelius, again cabinet member. So we’ve made some incredible contributions. You go, girls. (Frank) So anyway, getting the right to vote in Kansas is a good story for an election year. Like many reform-minded settlers, Clarina Nichols was a New Englander. She was born in Vermont in 1810. Clarina was well educated and committed to educating others. She married and had children, but she broke the mold for her era. She divorced her first husband, unheard of in that age. She remarried newspaper editor George W. Nichols, a man 28 years older than she. Clarina eventually took over the newspaper’s editorial duties. Clarina advocated for married women’s rights for property and succeeded in changing the laws in New York and Vermont. According to Kansas Memory, when Kansas was opened for settlement in 1854, Clarina migrated to the new territory. She joined the New England Emigrant Aid Society and soon moved her family to a claim in southern Douglas County. Her husband died soon after the move. Clarina worked for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery. Clarina eventually became associate editor of the Quindaro Chindowan, an antislavery newspaper in Wyandotte County. Clarina traveled throughout the territory lecturing about equality, gathering signatures on petitions, building support for her participation at the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention. She sat in on the daily proceedings. She lobbied the delegates to grant women equal educational opportunities and the right to vote in school district elections, equal standing on child custody matters, and equality in holding real and personal property. It was in large part a result of her lobbying efforts that the Wyandotte Constitution guaranteed these rights to Kansas women. The cause of woman’s rights advanced slowly thereafter, but it did advance, thanks to Clarina and many other selfless and dedicated women. Nichols left Kansas in 1871 to be with two of her children in California, where she died on January 11, 1885. But, of course, the cause lived on. Two years after Nichols’ death, Kansas women could vote in municipal elections, and in 1912 they succeeded in their long effort to amend the state constitution and gain equality at the polls. Learn more about the life of this remarkable woman in Clarina Nichols: Frontier Crusader for Women’s Rights by Diane Eickhoff, from Quindaro Press.