By Diane Eickhoff
Everyone knows about the ''Votes for Women'' campaign that led to the 19th Amendment in 1920. Few know just how long the struggle really was. Decades earlier, brave women began breaking the taboo of remaining silent at gatherings that included men. They began signing their names to petitions, flexing political muscle long before they had the vote. They wrote millions of words and published some of the most influential books and journals of their day. No one represents this early struggle -- the small triumphs and discouraging setbacks -- better than Clarina Howard Nichols (1810-1885), the Vermont newspaper publisher whose speeches made a powerful case for equality.
Nichols, herself the victim of a failed marriage, was a magnet to abused and mistreated women and was their advocate at a time when her sex was just beginning to speak up. And when she felt progress wasn't coming soon enough, she moved west, to Bleeding Kansas, where she would make history and show the world that feminism could thrive on the frontier.