virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Mon 3 Apr 06 05:34
We're joined now by Diane Eickhoff, to discuss her book, Revolutionary Heart: The Life of Clarina Nichols and the Pioneering Crusade for Women's Rights.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Mon 3 Apr 06 05:35
Diane Eickhoff taught school in Appalachia and Westchester County, New York, served as director of public relations for a hospital in suburban Chicago, and worked as a senior editor in language arts for a major educational publisher before taking the leap to become an author herself. Her book, "Revolutionary Heart: The Life of Clarina Nichols and the Pioneering Crusade for Women's Rights," has garnered praise from Booklist, Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. Diane regularly conducts living history presentations for the Kansas Humanities Council. A native of Minnesota, she lives in Kansas City with her husband, television critic Aaron Barnhart. Hosting the conversation here is WELL member Cynthia Dyer-Bennet, who has been a caterer, a vintage clothing store owner, a bartender, a fashion model, a reporter, and a pump jockey at the Kahului airport. She once had a business card that self-described her as "professional dilettante." Currently, and for the past seven years, she's been the conferencing manager for The WELL. How's everything, you two?
raisin d'etre (peoples) Mon 3 Apr 06 08:11
Hi, Bruce, thanks for the lovely welcome. And hello to you, Diane. I'm so glad you're able to join us. I'm looking forward to learning more about Clarina Nichols and about you during the next two weeks. I'd like to start by asking you "why Clarina Nichols?". What, specifically, drew you to write about this particular figure from the early women's rights movement?
Diane Eickhoff (diane-eickhoff) Mon 3 Apr 06 09:59
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Mon 3 Apr 06 14:10
> no one had ever written a book about her Having read your biography of her, I find that more than a little surprising. She was quite a powerful figure in the movement. Given that she made such a mark on the the budding world of women's rights, why do you think her name faded into relative obscurity while Susan B. Anthony's and Elizabeth Cady Stanton's names endured?
Diane Eickhoff (diane-eickhoff) Mon 3 Apr 06 22:39
Why did Clarina Nichols's name and accomplishments fade into obscurity? That's a complicated question to answer. First of all, how many names of leaders of the early women's rights movement do you (or anybody else reading this) know besides Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton? There were at least ten or twenty women who were instrumental in starting this movement, and from what I've read, they all had fascinating lives. These are the first outspoken, politically oriented women in this country, the first ones to give women a voice, the first to break taboos that said women should not speak publicly to "promiscuous" (mixed) groups of men and women. There's a terrific book out there about our "founding mothers," but they are almost all known today because they were some famous man's wife, mother, sister, or daughter during the War of Independence. The women I'm describing in Revolutionary Heart are important because of their own words and deeds. The second reason Clarina Nichols is not remembered is that this entire movement has been trivialized and minimized in the public eye and even in history textbooks, though I think that's beginning to change. Many people have a Mary Poppins view of the original women's movement -- remember the upper middle-class mother in the story who defies her banker husband and goes out to march spunkily down the street with a sign that says "Votes for Women"? That's the stereotype, but these first-wave feminists were about a whole lot more than suffrage. They demanded economic rights, equal educational and vocational opportunities, equal pay for equal work, custody and property rights. They claimed these rights not only for themselves but for all the enslaved women of the South. Some wanted a complete restructuring of society, and remember -- this is all BEFORE the Civil War. In many people's heads, this is all reduced to a single issue: suffrage. I find that maddening. When I was first researching this book, I looked at a high school history textbook that had just been published. It had devoted 30 pages to a description of the Alamo and just 4 pages to the first women's rights movement -- arguably the longest civil rights movement in the country and one that affected half the population. The question is not why isn't Clarina Nichols better known. It's why don't we know more about lots of other women in history? Why have women's stories been written in invisible ink? How do we recover these stories? Lastly, in Nichols's particular case, many of her writings were lost in her frequent moves around the country. She never kept a diary or a journal. She didn't write her autobiography, and she moved away from the vortex of the movement, the Eastern corridor. By moving west she definitely took the road less traveled...and disappeared as she rode into the sunset. Oh, one last thing: Ken Burns did not mention Nichols in his documentary, "Not for Ourselves Alone"! But if it hadn't been for him, most people probably wouldn't know Elizabeth Cady Stanton either. It would all devolve on dear old Susan B. Anthony. She has become the grim-faced poster child for the first women's rights movement -- resolute and humorless. It's another caricature.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Tue 4 Apr 06 10:21
> The question is not why isn't Clarina Nichols better > known. It's why don't we know more about lots of other women in > history? Why have women's stories been written in invisible ink? That's the million dollar question, isn't it? In fact, I was struck by the "back-burnering" of support on a vote for women's suffrage in Kansas in 1867 when a similar issue for blacks was also on the ballot. Even Horace Greeley and Frederick Douglass -- who had long favored the women's rights movement -- sidled away, refusing to stand up for women's voting rights because it was "the Negro's hour" to gain the vote. That's especially galling (to me, anyway) because they weren't really supporting voting rights for blacks, only for black males. When it came down to the crunch, women were once again expected to go to the back of the line. Considering how little historical attention has been given to the early women's rights movement, I'm wondering how hard it was for you to find source material for your research. Was there a body of writing collected in one place? Did you have to travel all over the country gleaning bits and pieces from all over the place? And how long did you spend researching before you began writing the book?
Diane Eickhoff (diane-eickhoff) Tue 4 Apr 06 20:47
Actually, there are a lot of sources on the early (or first-wave) feminist movement. First and foremost, there's the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage, the first three volumes of which were edited by Susan B. Anthony, Elizaeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Joslyn Gage. I have the whole collection on a searchable CD. There's a ton of information available online from good reputable sources. Lots of old books have been digitized as well, so there's no dearth of primary sources on the early women's rights movement online and in libraries. There are a number of women's studies scholars who are working in this field, some of them doing what I'm doing -- piecing together biographies of long forgotten women. In the 1970s both a Kansas historian and one of Nichols's descendants gathered together as many of Nichols's writings and papers as they could find. Those have been microfilmed, and the originals are at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe. That's the starting point for anyone interested in Nichols. My husband and I made two research trips east, to Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York, and two trips to California (where Nichols lived the last 14 years of her life and where many of her personal effects ended up. I've visited her home town, seen the inside of her parents' home, (which still stands on the village green in Townshend), walked among the ruins of the Kansas ghost town she once lived in, and visited her grave in Potter Valley, California. I'm in touch with her great-great granddaughter in Florida and correspond frequently with a Vermont historian who is working on other aspects of Nichols's life. I've spent a week each at the San Francisco Public Library, the Newberry Library in Chicago, and the New York Public Library and the NY Historical Society. The list goes on, and I'm not even mentioning the places in Kansas and Missouri that are within driving distance of home. I've been at this process -- researching and writing -- about six years. I'm not even sure when I first started putting some paragraphs together, but I think a couple years into the process. The problem is that you can't totally separate the research and the writing, and even when you do start writing, invariably some new piece of information or some new document comes to your attention, and you're working it into the text, which of course means another re-shuffling of material. It's a kind of circular process -- at least for me it was. I am sort of obsessive-compulsive, I guess. I always think there might be one more thing out there that I need to get my hands on, one more lead that I need to follow.At some point you have to make peace with the fact that there will always be loose ends. Most of the time the work is pretty tedious and slow, but then there are those delicious moments when you come across a new piece of information -- or find something in re-reading that you missed the first or the eleventh time around. I don't live for those moments, but I relish them.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Wed 5 Apr 06 10:44
Six years! That's quite an investment of time, and I can imagine that some of the research would have been ... um ... dry. And yes, I understand about the rush you felt when you discovered a new piece of information. A few years ago, I transcribed onto disk a series of 16 letters my great great great uncle wrote home to his family from the battlefields of the Crimean War. (WELL members can read the transcriptions in <history.461> ). I was transfixed, transported by the letters as I was typing them. Sadly, I wasn't working from the originals. I was re-transcribing something that had been transcribed from the original by my grandfather 40 years before, and where the actual letters reside is unknown to me. But even once removed, I found the experience profoundly moving, as if my ancestor was reaching out to me through the centuries. Yet how much *more* thrilling if I'd been able to get my hands on the originals, to feel the delicate, dry paper, to see the actual handrwiting, the smudges and smears embedded in letters written by candlelight. When you were doing your research, were you able to look at original materials? I mean, did you get to look at letters written in Nichols' own hand? Touch any of her belongings? If so, how did it make you feel? Also, you've invested so much time into learning about this woman's life, what was it like making contact with her descendents? Did you feel a special connection there?
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 5 Apr 06 12:27
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Diane Eickhoff (diane-eickhoff) Wed 5 Apr 06 14:53
Yes, I have seen many items written in Clarina Nichols's own hand, though what I usually do is try to get photocopies, so I can transcribe the letter or document word for word at my leisure. As a young adult (starting at age 17 until maybe age 30), Nichols wrote poetry, which has pretty much been overlooked by anyone else who's been interested in her work. The poems are out of style by today's standards -- pious, sentimental,treacly at times. She was no Emily Dickinson! I had made a copy of her poetry journey and tucked it away but for some reason decided to give it a more careful look and had started transcribing the poems, all of them written in Nichols's hand, of course. And that's how I found a couple of quite revealing poems -- two of which I included in my book. Because she didn't keep a diary, and information about her personal thoughts and feelings is so scanty, these poems helped me get a sense of what was going on inside her head at a very difficult time in her life. I actually wept when I transcribed one in which she described her longing for her young children, whom she'd been forced to "farm out" to the relatives. The only permanent exhibit of Nichols's personal effects can be found at a small, elegant museum in Ukiah, California -- the Grace Hudson Museum, named after Nichols's granddaughter who was a noted painter of the Pomo Indians of that area. In the back room they have some fine textiles that once belonged to Nichols, and I was allowed to handle those materials,to wonder what they had once been used for, to see how finely they had been woven -- by her own hand? The exhibit itself has Nichols's wooden laptop desk (a gift from her father when she was 12 years old), teacups from when the family emigrated from England in the 1600s, a beaded purse, a brooch woven from the hairs of her father's and her second husband's heads ("hair art" was common in the United States and Europe during the 19th century, and given what we know about hair today -- that it contains an individual's DNA -- this was, perhaps, a deeply intuitive way of holding on to a loved one who had died or was far away), a still-life that she painted, a jewelry box that Mary Todd Lincoln, according to family legend, gave to Nichols for the latter's service to a Georgetown home for indigent black widows and orphans directly after the Civil War. Perhaps the biggest thrill (in terms of tangible items that once belonged to Nichols) was wearing a piece of her jewelry at my last performance at the "Bleeding Kansas" Chautauqua that was held in 2004, commemorating 150 years since the opening of Kansas Territory. When the Kansas Humanities Council started planning this state-wide traveling history festival, I was already deep into my project, but the idea of going on stage with a first-person characterization of Nichols was inconceivable. I had never done anything like this in my life. She was, however, the only female chosen for a cast that included Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas (of Lincoln-Douglas debate fame) abolitionists John Brown and Frederick Douglass, and pro-slavery Missouri senator David Rice Achison. We were re-creating the whole spectrum of political thought that existed in the country in the six or seven years before the Civil War. There was no way for me *not* to audition for the role. Since by that point I was (with the exception of Lyn Blackwell, a Vermont historian) the world expert on Nichols, I got the role. So there I was, touring Kansas in the summer of 2004 with this motley, zany, brainy troupe of seasoned scholar/actors when Janice Parker, Nichols's great-great-great granddaughter, flew in from Houston with her young son to attend my last performance in Lawrence. Janice brought with her a daguerreotype that I'd only seen a digital version of and the brooch which you see Nichols wearing on the cover photo of _Revolutionary Heart_. Both my husband and I looked at each other later and said, "Did you notice how much Janice looks like Clarina?" Is that possible? I don't think we were imagining this, but I was at the time totally psyched for that night's performance -- 500 people gathered under the big Chautauqua tent in the "town" (settlement) Nichols had first come to when she emigrated to Kansas in 1854. Janice let me wear the brooch, with Clarina Nichols's initials engraved on the back, during my performance. That was,indeed, a magical hour. I really felt that Nichols was with us, and the audience sensed it too. They gave me *three* standing ovations!
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Wed 5 Apr 06 21:08
What a wonderful experience that summer tour must have been. And topping it off by getting to meet Janice Parker *and* having the opportunity to wear that beautiful brooch. You must have been floating above the stage! (Here's a web page with photos from that Chatauqua, including pictures near the bottom of the page of her as Clarina Nichols, wearing that brooch: http://www.clarinanichols.com/photos1 ) I want to talk some more about your dramatic portrayals of Nichols, but I'm going to sidetrack for a sec... > The only permanent exhibit of Nichols's personal effects can be found > at a small, elegant museum in Ukiah, California -- the Grace Hudson > Museum, named after Nichols's granddaughter who was a noted painter of > the Pomo Indians of that area. In "Revolutionary Heart," you've included a sketch Nichols drew of the town of Lawrence, Kansas Territory, where she'd gone to stump for women's rights. This is a beautiful drawing -- a few lonely tents scattered about a vast scenery of grassy plains with copses of trees tracing the meanderings of creeks -- I can feel the immensity of the landscape and the minuteness of the people trying to tame it. So much information in such a small, toss-off image. It made me wonder whether you came across any other examples of her art. She was very talented!
Diane Eickhoff (diane-eickhoff) Thu 6 Apr 06 06:06
The only other example of Nichols's art that I've seen is that still-life painting, mentioned earlier, that's part of the Grace Hudson exhibit in Ukiah. Art was part of every educated, middle- and upper-class girl's/woman's training., but I believe Nichols had some painting lessons later on in her life, during the time she was mourning her second husband's death. Artistic talent ran in her family. Her daughter, Birsha, was a talented amateur artist, and of course her granddaughter, Grace Hudson, was a professional painter. There's an interesting story behind Nichols's sketch of Lawrence, the one I included in my book, and which you just described so beautifully above. The University of Kansas has had this sketch in its territorial collection at the Spencer Museum of Art for years but did not attribute it to Clarina Nichols until recently. Why would they have? Everyone thought of Nichols as a feminist and a reformer, not an artist. Then someone found an old newspaper article that alluded to the drawing. The writer said he had seen Mrs.J. H. Nichols ride a horse to the top of the hill that the University of Kansas is now located on, prop herself against a stack of hay, and sketch the scene before her -- a panoramic view that shows the curvature of the earth, nature engulfing the first signs that European-American settlers have arrived. That's when people started wondering if it could possibly have been done by the Mrs. Nichols of feminist fame. I was able to contribute a few thoughts to the conversation. First of all, I knew she had artistic talent and interests. When I saw the sketch I was pretty certain it was hers. There was the problem of the initials. Clarina Nichols signed her articles "C. I. H. Nichols" and the newspaper article said it was a "Mrs. J. H. Nichols." I thought that could be easily explained. Some typesetter had lopped off the "C" and changed the "I" to a "J." Happens all the time. Secondly, I looked through the names of all the emigrantsT that had come to Kansas in the first couple years, and Clarina Nichols was the only female Nichols listed. The clincher, in my opinion, was a description Nichols had written in a newspaper article that perfectly matched the scene in question. "I wish I could convey to your readers a bird's eye view of the first location of the Emigrant Aid company [and] the city of Lawrence. I will not paint to you the thatched cottages mingled with white tents and log huts....But let me linger on 'Capitol Hill,' [aka Mt. Oread] a noble but gradually reached elevation in the center of the most beautiful and magnificent scene my eye ever rested upon." She was writing this in an Eastern newspaper that she was a correspondent for while in Kansas. I think she made the sketch for exactly the same reason that we take pictures -- to remember what it was like, and to refer to when describing early Kansas to her Eastern readers. Nichols was an enthusiastic booster for Kansas Territory. She wanted others to come west. Despite stereotypes of Kansas being flat and barren as a pancake, eastern Kansas is all gently rolling hills, high plains, and forested valleys.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Thu 6 Apr 06 11:56
The drawing is a wonderfully inviting image, and as you say, not the picture most people, including myself, have in mind at the mention of "Kansas." That's so cool you played such an important role in identifying her as the artist. And what great sleuthing on your part. Now, back to your performances as Clarina Nichols: I understand that the dress you're wearing in this photo -- <http://www.clarinanichols.com/files/images/55466573_968dad62c0_b.jpg> is an authentic Civil War era garment, and that it was on loan to you. I've been a collector of vintage clothing since my late teens, and have things going back to the 1880s and '90s. But a garment close to 150 years old! I'd have been afraid to wear it, afraid the fabric would shred, or that I'd spill something on it, or sweat in it. Also, I'm pretty sure I'd have a hard time fitting my 20th century waist into a 19th century dress. Did you have to wear cinchers of any kind to be able to don that beautiful garment?
Diane Eickhoff (diane-eickhoff) Thu 6 Apr 06 19:43
Everything I wear for my performances has either been loaned or given to me. The dress in that photo is a *replica* of a Civil War era dress, not the real thing. A Lawrence historian who used to do reenactments made the dress out of a silk taffeta material that is authentic to the period. I had a seamstress add the collar and cuffs. Women often had detachable collars and cuffs on their good clothing, so they could just remove those items, wash, starch, and baste them back onto the dress without having to launder the dress itself. Very practical. Another friend loaned me a big old petticoat and pantalets. Now all I needed was a pair of shoes -- rounded toes, hooks and eyes, maybe over-the-ankle boots -- that's what I was thinking would work. Then one weekend my friend, Becky, was visiting us from Chicago. She sat down in our living room and put her feet up on the coffee table, and I got really excited. "Those shoes," I said. "They would be perfect for Clarina." Becky took them off on the spot and handed them to me. What are friends for? I do not wear cinchers, a corset, or a hoop. Clarina Nichols, thank God, would not have worn them (she was into dress reform), and neither do I. I was very relieved to pull a costume together so easily. I hate shopping and do not like to sew. Remember, I got into this whole first-person portrayal thing through the back door. I never intended to go onstage. It was just an opportunity that came my way, and I jumped into it because it would have been crazy not to have. At the risk of offending someone or other, I'm going to make some distinctions between reenacting and doing a costumed, first-person characterization or portrayal, which is what I do. Reenactors are people who are interested or obsessed with a certain period in history. In my experience, most of them are really into looking the part. They value authenticity,down to the last detail. Some of them spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars putting together a costume. Other spend a great deal of time researching clothing styles, shopping, or sewing outfit.It's adult dress-up, and many people enjoy it. In our area there are all kinds of special events for Civil War reenactors. They go to festivals and conventions. They organize balls and reenact battle scenes. They get *huge* turnouts for running up and down some farmer's field, firing cannon, and shooting big blue plumes of smoke. Sometimes they're even on horseback, which is a big crowd-pleaser. The women look like they've just stepped off the scene of _Gone with the Wind_, before the old plantation burned down. They carry silk parasols and wear white gloves. I'm not saying that reenactors aren't serious about history -- I think many of them are -- but it seems to me that most of them are most interested in the material side of history -- how people dressed, how they churned butter, how they cleaned their guns, how they loaded their wagons. Most of the time they're not portraying *particular* individuals. They're portraying a type of person -- a lieutenant, a merchant's wife, a preacher, a prostitute. That's not me! I am portraying a particular woman whose life I've immersed myself in for several years. I consider my costume a vehicle. It's a way I set a mood, bring people into the era so they can take in what Nichols has to say. If they're sitting there distracted because the sleeves on my dress aren't set in the right way, then I've lost a chance to engage them. I'm grateful I didn't have to worry about putting together a costume. It gave me freedom to concentrate on what I'm more interested in. I want people to hear Clarina Nichols's words and imagine her life. I want them to think about about their own lives, the kind of history they're making for the generations down the line. I hope our descendants are not reenacting the Iraq War 100 years from now.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Fri 7 Apr 06 08:34
> a *replica* of a Civil War-era dress Ah, thanks for clarifying that; I 'd misunderstood what I'd read. Nevertheless, it's a lovely piece and I wish I could see it firsthand. I can see how it would enhance the experience for your audiences when you perform. Speaking of performing, how much of your performance is word-for-word Clarina Nichols? I assume you deliver speeches she's known to have made, but do you also portray her in her non-public voice, speaking in ways you believe she'd have spoken?
Diane Eickhoff (diane-eickhoff) Fri 7 Apr 06 11:56
That's a great question, Cynthia. Writing the script for my characterization was the easiest writing I have ever done. I am not, normally, a speedy writer. I tend to write a sentence and then spend the next hour re-writing it. But I wrote the entire 30-minute script for my portrayal of Nichols in a couple of hours. With a few changes it has remained the way I first composed it. I think that's because I knew Nichols well. By the time I wrote the script, Nichols had become a part of my life. My husband will tell you that in ordinary conversations I am prone to dropping in occasional quotes from Nichols. The hardest part was figuring out where to begin the piece. The Kansas Humanities Council told all six of us Chautauquans that we couldn't include anything past 1861, the year Kansas became a state and the Civil War began. Everything needed to be within the territorial period, from 1854-1861, or during the preceding years. If someone, during the Q & A period that follows each performance, asked us about something that happened *after* 1861, we were to act like we had no idea what they were talking about. (Later on in the evening, we revert to our real selves, take off our wigs or hats and answer questions as the scholar, not the individual we're portraying. At that point we answer any kind of question -- sort of like here.) I decided to set my monologue in the fall of 1861, just after Kansas had become a state and the war had begun. That put the spotlight on Nichols at an uncertain but dramatic time. In the autumn of 1861 Nichols was living in a little town on the border between Kansas and Missouri. From the hilly bluffs she could see across the river to the slave plantations in and around Parkvillw, Missouri. Fugitive slaves were crossing the river in increasing numbers. No one had any idea how long and bloody the new war would be. The border war between Kansas and Missouri had been going on now for seven years.There was a great deal of uncertainty about whether Missouri would stay with the Union or secede. And in this part of the region there was great sympathy for the Southern cause and secession. Nichols had sent her daughter back East to stay with friends. She had sent her teenage son farther into the interior of Kansas to attend school and stay with Wyandotte Indian friends. One of Nichols's older sons had migrated to California, and the other one had joined the Union Army. She's all alone in her house. "If that river freezes, they [the Rebels] are sure to cross over," she writes to a friend. She's been warned twice that a raid to destroy the town is imminent. If that happens, "I don't know which way I shall go." I tried to imagine what that scene might have been like. Then I conjured up the idea of a a reporter coming to her house for an interview.She was, after all, a newspaper editor herself back in Vermont. She was a well-known, well-respected Eastern reformer. It seemed possible to me that a reporter might have been curious about what she was doing in this seedy, little border town, though in real life that probably wouldn't have happened. Anyway, in the monologue you never hear from the reporter. I just kept him in my head, tried to think of the questions he might have asked, and how she might have responded as she told him her story. I think this technique lent some immediacy to my characterization. "What brought me to Kansas?" is the first line in my monologue. "Opportunity and hope, I believed that in a new territory, outside the prejudiced United States, we could accomplish great things. That we could keep both slavery and whiskey out, and bring in rights for women that would set an example for the rest of the country." That's a pretty close approximation of something Nichols said. I tried to use as many of her words as possible, sometimes whole blocks of text, but of course I had to add transitions and conflate ideas. I had to shorten sentences and "translate" some antique language and syntax. I had to keep the piece flowing, and I had to keep my audience in mind. This was a dramatic performance that had to appeal to a broad range of people. It had to be intelligible to an old woman with hearing problems and lively enough for children as young as eight. I was as likely to have adults with eighth grade educations in my audience as I was to have history professors from the local college. I discovered that "living history" is a great way to bring history to a broad range of people. I think most people are turned off history because it is sometimes presented as a disembodied set of dates and facts from the distant past that seems to have nothing to do with people today. I think that's changing. I hope so.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Fri 7 Apr 06 19:15
> "living history" is a great way to bring history to > a broad range of people. Absolutely! What you say about the dryness of memorized dates and facts rings true for me and my recollections of history lessons in public school. I learned *when* the Civil War was, but I had no sense of what it was like for the people living through it. It took that Ken Burns series, with all those intimate letters between soldiers and their loved ones, to make me really *feel* on a personal level the individual suffering during the war. I know that you've made a companion piece to "Revolutionary Heart" -- an audio book about Nichols life called "Frontier Freedom Fighter" that you designed especially for younger listeners. (I listened to the sound clip from the audio book, by the way, and was surprised to hear you call her "cluh-RIN-uh" -- I'd been mentally hearing "cluh-REEH-nuh" as I was reading the book. To hear the clip, click the link on this page: http://www.clarinanichols.com/cd ) Did you develop the audio book after having done presentations to school children and realizing there was a need? Or were both projects done simultaneously?
Diane Eickhoff (diane-eickhoff) Sat 8 Apr 06 17:14
No, the audiobook actually came first. My original intent, as I was researching her life, was to make a contribution to the young adult biography genre, which is woefully lacking in titles about the lives of women. I had a manuscript in progress when fate intervened, in the form of the Chautauqua. When I was chosen for that, I realized I would have to put the book on hold for a few months. At the same time, I didn't want to miss the chance to offer a product at my performances. So I compromised and created an audiobook. That market is almost as starved for biographies about women as the young adult market. I made a 20,000-word cutdown of the book and recorded it as a 75-minute program, "Frontier Freedom Fighter," and had a couple hundred demos of it made. (The commercial version is being released this month, which you linked to, thank you!) We sold about 100 copies of the demo at Chautauqua, but even more valuable was the feedback I got. At every stop, I'd be asked by lots of people: When was the book coming out? And by "book" they meant an adult biography. So that turned out to be my focus test. I immediately went home and began work on a new manuscript that became Revolutionary Heart. I think someday I'd like to develop "Frontier Freedom Fighter" as a physical book, but the CD now sounds so wonderful, I'd rather people went out and bought that for their kids! Regarding the pronunciation -- it was Clarina's descendant, Juanita Johnson, who is in her 80s and living in Florida, who told me that was how she was taught by her mother to pronounce the name.
Diane Eickhoff (diane-eickhoff) Sat 8 Apr 06 17:21
Oops, I accidentally scribbled that first response up there -- let me see if can summarize my response quickly. The question had been asked, "why Clarina Nichols?" By this point, anyone reading has seen that she lived an interesting life and that the movement she was involved in -- women's rights before the Civil War, decades before suffrage -- has been largely and unjustly overlooked in history books. There were just enough details about her to initially pique my interest, and as my research deepened, so did my appreciation for her. And, as noted above, no one had ever told her story! That's a reason a lot of biographies get written.
It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Sat 8 Apr 06 20:23
This is an interesting conversation. I'm in touch with a fair amount of Living History people (and am putting together a show about P.T. Barnum called "Barnum Speaks") I'm very interested in your process for creating your piece/monologue. Could you give some examples of the flowery words you cut down and what you replaced in their place? (And if you don't know about it, you should check out Solo Together, a loose association of Living History Performers that meet 3-4 times a year to compare notes. <http://www.solotogether.com>
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Sun 9 Apr 06 11:27
Small sidetrack: Yesterday my husband and I took a drive up to Ukiah and we visited the Grace Hudson Museum. With permission of the guide, I snapped some photos. Lighting was poor, and I had the flash off intentionally. But people can see a hint of the finess Nichols had with the paintbrush in this still life: http://www.well.com/~peoples/temp/StillLife.jpg I also got this shot. It's a portrait of her when she was 3 years old. http://www.well.com/~peoples/temp/LittleClarina.jpg The museum, by the way, is quite excellent. Nichols' granddaughter Grace Hudson was an extraordinarily talented and sensitive painter and her work is a pleasure to gaze upon. And the side room where the family history resides (and where I saw Nichols' writing desk and other personal effects) was really satisfying. Having just read "Revolutionary Heart," I felt much more interested in, more of a connection to Nichols' family tree and to all the things on display, not just Clarina Nichols'. ************************* Diane, after you've answered the question from <kafclown> above, I'd like to turn the conversation to the early women's rights movement. Most people assume the movement was solely about suffrage. But it was actually about much more than that. Can you talk a bit about some of the other inequities women faced that Nichols and her cohort were struggling to rectify?
Diane Eickhoff (diane-eickhoff) Sun 9 Apr 06 11:51
Thanks for joining the conversation, Adam, and thanks for steering me to the website. From what I've read, these are my New England counterparts. This is exactly what I do -- a "first person interpretation" of Clarina Nichols. Since we don't have any video of our subjects (and in my case, scattered writings, mostly of a public nature), we can't imitate our subjects. We certainly can't "impersonate" them, as some scholars seem to think. Most of us doing living history have spent a lot of time researching and thinking about our subjects. We want to do them justice. Even if we don't get everything right, we hope to convey our subject's essence -- the ideas, beliefs and decisions that propelled their lives. > Could you give some examples of the flowery words you cut down and what you replaced in their place? Nichols often spoke in long, involved paragraphs, so what I did was cut out a lot of the words to get to the heart of the matter. She is starting from premises that people in the mid-19th century would have instantly understood -- that a woman who married lost control of her wages and property and in cases of divorce lost custody of her children. "Woman is the greatest sufferer," she said in one of her speeches. She then elaborates for several paragraphs, which I then boiled down to this: "Under the laws of most states, she is powerless to do anything but endure. Her property, her wages, even evey article of clothing on her body -- all these belong to her husband, drunken or sober. He may do with them as he will." By the way did you know that P.T. Barnum and Clarina Nichols knew each other and were allies? I don't have any information on a friendship, but I do know they were both vice-presidents of a tempoerance convention in New York in 1853. This was an amazing event. The most radical reformers in the country were there -- men and women. They supported abolition, temperance, and women's rights. Anyway, they were all ticked off because a more conservative element of the temperance movement had kicked women out of leadership, wouldn't allow them to even speak at what was called the "World's Temperance Convention." So the more radical wing walked out and organized what they called "The *Whole* World's Temperance Convention." Nichols and Barnum were both on the podium.
It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Sun 9 Apr 06 12:14
I didn't know that about Nichols, but it doesn't surprise me. Barnum came out for temperance in 1849-1850 (he had actually come out against drinking prior to that, but had kept up drinking wine.) By 1851 he was a much sought after lecturer, and he gave a lecture called "Why I am not a drunkard" His American Museum in New York was a theatre as well, and often had temperance plays and other amusements to help educate the moral character of his audience.
Diane Eickhoff (diane-eickhoff) Sun 9 Apr 06 13:38
Cynthia, I'm so pleased you made the trek to Ukiah and thanks for the photo of Nichols's still life. Yes, the Grace Hudson Museum *is* a gem. They get high marks from me for recognizing Nichols's significance early on and taking good care of everything of hers that came into their hands. < Most people assume the movement was solely about suffrage. But it was actually about much more than that. You got *that* right! Suffrage was one item in a package that included many other demands. I think it's important to know that this first movement for women's legal and political rights did not arise in a vaccum. Women did not wake up one morning and say, "It's time to demand our rights!" The first women's right's movement grew organically out of women's involvement in the other reform movements of the day -- in particular, temperance and anti-slavery. Women were hard at work in both movements but also discriminated against in both. They weren't allowed to vote on important decisions. They weren't allowed to speak publicly for the movement. Goes without saying that they couldn't assume leadership positions. They were second-class citizens in movements dedicated to *reform.* So they decided to start their own reform movement and to focus on the issues that concenred women. Of course, no woman, married or single, could vote. They were paid half the wages men received for comparable work. All the public universities in the country were closed to them, as were all the higher status, higher paying professions The situation for married wormen was even worse. Married women lost their legal rights when they married. In the eyes of the law, they were dead, did not exist. It was assumed that their husbands spoke for them, represented them in all legal matters. Women couldn't serve on juries. They couldn't sue anyone because, legally, they didn't exist. Property rights for married women was a big deal, especially for women like Nichols. When women married, they lost all rights to control property they brought with them into the marriage, or wages earned during the marriage. This had serious repercussions. If a woman married an alcoholic who didn't pay his debts, she could lose everything -- even property that had originally been given to her by her own family and items she had bought with her own money. The county sheriff could -- and did -- arrive at the house and strip it of all its furnishings, leaving the woman and her children without even a bed to sleep in. Nichols rails against this practice. If a wife died, the husband got the entire estate, whether he had earned it by the sweat of his brow or inherited it from his wife's side of the family. If a husband died, the wife was entitled to *one-third* of the husband's estate. The other two-thirds was divided among the husband's male heirs. Nichols railed against this practice also. She asked men to stop and think how they would feel if the tables were turned. In cases of divorce, the wife almost always lost custody of the children if the husband wanted them. It didn't matter if he was a womanizer or abusive. If he wanted the children, he got them. There was no such thing as equal custody rights for women. Suffrage became important because the women soon realized they could never protect any other rights given them unless they had political rights. At all of the early women's rights conventions, they had a list of demands and resolutions as long as your forearm!
Diane Eickhoff (diane-eickhoff) Sun 9 Apr 06 13:49
> Barnum came out for temperance in 1849-1850 (he had actually come out against drinking prior to that, but had kept up drinking wine). That's not as surprising as it may first seem. Temperance for many people, especially in the early years, did not mean abstinence from all fermented drinks. Wine and beer were often excepted. At first the reformers were just trying to get people to moderate their drinking. I guess they thought that wasn't working so well!
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