Sunday, January 3, 2016

Book Review: Revolutionary Heart by Diane Eickhoff

Revolutionary Heart: The Life of Clarina Nichols and the Pioneering Crusade for Women's RightsRevolutionary Heart: The Life of Clarina Nichols and the Pioneering Crusade for Women's Rights by Diane Eickhoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The life of women’s right crusader Clarina Nichols is the focus of “Revolutionary Heart” by editor-turned-historian Diane Eickhoff. Through Nichols life, we not only see the accomplishments of a very determined woman but also see the history of the three great antebellum reform movements.

The life of Clarina Nichols begins at one end of the country (Vermont) to the other (California), but a very important part of her life was spent in helping settle and attempt to influence the formation of the State of Kansas. Eickhoff using recovered sources that had not been known of since Nichols’ death in 1885, brings Nichol life in an entertaining and engaging manner that keeps the reader manner. Eickhoff follows Nichols’ life growing up in Vermont and her troublesome first marriage that helped focus her crusading efforts in the antebellum women’s right movement that was launched by circumstances in her second marriage. While detailing Nichols’ efforts on women’s rights, Eickhoff makes it a point to show Nichol’s as a mother not just as an aside but as one of the main themes throughout the book. And through Nichols, Eickhoff helped bring into the focus how the three major antebellum reform movements—abolition, suffrage, and temperance—were interwoven with one another for a 30 year period.

“Revolutionary Heart” pacts a lot of material in 277 pages in a well-written biography of an under-recognized leader of the early women’s rights movement in the 1850s thanks not only to Eickhoff’s writing but also her background of editing. The life and work of Clarina Nichols helps give context to the 1850s and 1860s when the popular view focuses on slavery and the Civil War. I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to learn more about the early women’s right movement.

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