Woman Suffrage Leader in Kansas

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Susan’s brother D.R. Anthony emigrated to Kansas with the inaugural party of the Emigrant Aid Company in July 1854. Later that fall, Clarina Nichols arrived with a larger group. By the time Nichols set foot in Kansas,

D.R. had already returned to his home in Rochester, NY.

Both made the journey in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which decreed that citizens of the new territory should determine whether it would enter the Union as a slave state or free state. The state was then a rough frontier. In one letter Nichols described ten thousand rowdy pro-slavery Missourians storming the Kansas polling place to prevent antislavery voters from casting their ballots.

Nichols wrote many letters to eastern newspapers. In them, she cheerfully described the austere conditions in Kansas and noted that most of the male emigrants who abandoned Kansas did so because they could not keep house and farm at the same time. She, however, was forced to do just that. Shortly after moving to a remote, pro-slavery area outside of Lawrence, her husband died leaving her friendless and needing to homestead by herself.

Clarina Nichols KHS 500x729
Kansas suffragist Clarina Nichols

Not only did she want to fight slavery in the territory, but she hoped that Kansas would have a more open mind on women’s rights. She addressed numerous legislatures in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Kansas, declaring that women should either be allowed to vote or excused from taxation. She was responsible for gaining women the right to vote in the school elections of Kansas in 1860 and many other gradual victories. Always, her ultimate goal was for woman suffrage.

Clarina gives valuable advice to Annie Anthony in Book Two of my Dauntless Series.  Watch this space for publication news!

This blog is too short to reproduce Nichols’ genius for storytelling and humor, especially through the creation of her pseudonym Deborah Van Winkle, an outspoken Yankee who spoke of “wimins wrongs.”

For more information on this remarkable woman, I strongly recommend Diane Eikhoff’s book Revolutionary Heart. Other information about this foremother comes from the Kansas Historical Quarterly.

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