inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #0 of 63: 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
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #1 of 63: 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?
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #2 of 63: 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?
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #3 of 63: Diane Eickhoff (diane-eickhoff) Mon 3 Apr 06 09:59
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #4 of 63: 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?
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #5 of 63: 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.
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #6 of 63: 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?
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #7 of 63: 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.  
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #8 of 63: 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?
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #9 of 63: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 5 Apr 06 12:27

(NOTE: Offsite readers with questions or comments can send email to
<> to have them added to this conversation)
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #10 of 63: 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

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!
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #11 of 63: 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: )

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!
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #12 of 63: 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

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.
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #13 of 63: 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

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 --

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?
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #14 of 63: 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

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

 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.  
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #15 of 63: 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?
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #16 of 63: 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,

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

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

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.

inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #17 of 63: 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.


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: )

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? 
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #18 of 63: 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

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.
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #19 of 63: 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.
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #20 of 63: 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.

inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #21 of 63: 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:

I also got this shot. It's a portrait of her when she was 3 years old.

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?
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #22 of 63: 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

"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. 
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #23 of 63: 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.
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #24 of 63: 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

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

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! 
inkwell.vue.269 : Diane Eickhoff: Revolutionary Heart
permalink #25 of 63: 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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