Clarina Howard Nichols
How did Clarina Howard Nichols help the fight for women’s rights?
Clarina Howard Nichols is sometimes called the "forgotten feminist(someone who believes in equal rights for all genders)." She was an important activist(someone who fights to support a cause) in the mid-1800s fight for women’s rights. Clarina Howard Nichols knew that women needed control over their property(something that a person owns) and child custody(who a child should live with). She also believed it was important for women to get a good education. Clarina Howard Nichols helped make sure the Kansas Constitution(a document that controls the laws of a state or country) had a section on women’s rights. While Clarina Howard Nichol’s biggest mark on history happened out west, her story began in Vermont.
Clarina Howard’s first marriage was hard. She had to work long hours to support her three children. She got a divorce(two people are no longer married), which was unusual for a woman at the time. Clarina Howard became a suffragette(an activist who fought for equal voting rights for women). She wanted to help other women avoid the conditions she faced. Clarina Howard used her skills to petition(papers signed by a group of people to convince lawmakers to take action) for laws giving women rights. She knew changing the law was an important step to protecting women’s rights in the future.
In 1843, Clarina Howard married George Nichols. He worked on newspapers. Clarina Howard Nichols and her husband were editors for the Windham County Democrat. She focused on publishing articles and speaking about women’s suffrage. She supported the Temperance Movement(an effort to ban the sale of alcohol in the US), and abolition(a movement that wanted to end slavery) in her paper. Some women were uncertain about the suffrage movement. They did not think that it could make a difference in their lives. Clarina Howard Nichols spoke about her own life and the other women she had helped. She wanted to make sure other women could trust her to make a difference.
Thanks to Clarina Howard Nichols, the women's suffrage movement gained support in Vermont. In 1852, Clarina Howard Nichols became the first woman to speak in front of the Vermont Legislature(the part of state government that makes laws). At the time, all the lawmakers were men. Clarina Howard Nichols wanted wives to have the right to vote in school elections. She knew that it was important step towards equal voting rights for women. Clarina Howard Nichols remained brave, even though some of the legislators interrupted her argument.
Clarina Howard Nichols and her family moved from Vermont to Kansas in 1854. She believed it was important to advocate for abolition and women’s rights in new western states. In 1880, the Vermont Legislature passed a law allowing women to vote in school elections. It was the same law Clarina Howard Nichols supported years earlier. Clarina Howard Nichols successfully brought the suffrage movement to more Americans. She also worked hard to defend women’s custody, education, and property rights.
Thinking About History
Historians ask questions to think deeply about history.
Clarina Howard Nichols was not always a feminist. She was inspired to join the movement because of her experiences in her first marriage. Have you ever been inspired to take a stand for something you believe in?
Clarina Howard Nichols wanted to write women’s property, education, and voting rights into law. Why was this an important step for suffragettes?
Follow the links below to explore related topics.
Watch the video Clarina Howard Nichols from This Place In History
Listen to former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin's 2007 speech on Clarina Howard Nichols
Visit Clarina Howard Nichols’ stop on the Brattleboro Words Trail
Watch a reenactment of Clarina Howard Nichols’ famous speech in the Vermont State House
Read about Clarina Howard Nichols and other Vermont suffragettes
Learn more about Consuelo Northrop Bailey
Copy and paste this citation to show where you did your research.
Vermont Historical Society. "Clarina Howard Nichols." Vermont History Explorer. Accessed December 4, 2023. https://vermonthistoryexplorer.org/clarina-howard-nichols/