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|Clarina I. H. Nichols
she convinced both Vermont and Kansas to pass legislation guaranteeing a range of rights for women
Clarina Irene Howard was born in West Townshend, Vermont, on January 25, 1810. She was educated in local public schools and at a private academy.
In April 1830, she married Justin Carpenter, a Baptist preacher. The two moved to Herkimer, New York, where she opened a girls' seminary in 1835. She returned to her Vermont home in 1839 and the next year began writing for the Windham County Democrat of Brattleboro. She divorced Carpenter in February 1843.
In March 1843, she married the Democrat's publisher, George W. Nichols, who was twenty-eight years her senior. That same year she became editor of the paper, and over the next several years she gradually broadened the paper's range to include literary pieces and editorials in support of various reform movements. In 1847, a series of her editorials on the subject of property rights for married women led directly to the passage by the Vermont Legislature providing for such rights. She had far less success in 1852, however, when she tried to secure the vote for women in district school elections. Although she carried the campaign directly to the State Legislature, no such legislation was ever passed.
The Democrat ceased publication in late 1853. In 1854, Nichols and her two older sons accompanied a New England Emigrant Aid Company party bound for Kansas Territory. Soon after taking a claim in southern Douglas County, she returned to Vermont for her husband, who had become quite ill. After the death of her husband in the summer of 1855, she again returned to Vermont to arrange the estate. While there she also lectured on the problems of slavery and statehood in Kansas.
Upon her return to Kansas, Nichols and her sons settled down in Wyandotte County. She became a frequent contributor of articles on women's rights to the Lawrence Herald of Freedom and the Topeka Kansas Tribune. Beginning in 1859, she traveled and spoke throughout the territory on behalf of the Kansas Women's Rights Association. As the official representative of the Moneka Woman's Rights Association, she lobbied the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention ceaselessly, and it was largely due to her efforts that the final document granted to women equal rights to education, to custody of their children, and to the vote in local school matters. She then campaigned for ratification of the Constitution. In 1860, as the representative of the Kansas Woman's Rights Association, she addressed a joint session of the first State Legislature on the need for a married women's property law. (Such a law was enacted in 1867.)
In December 1863, Nichols moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked as a clerk in the Quartermaster's Department. In February 1865, she became matron of a home in Georgetown operated by the National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children. She returned to Kansas in 1866, and in 1867 joined Susan B. Anthony in her unsuccessful campaign to achieve full woman suffrage in the state. In 1871, she moved to Mendocino County, California, where she contributed articles to the local Rural Press. She died in Potter Valley, California, on January 11, 1885.
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This page was last updated on January 11, 2019.