Sometimes you have to finish a draft of a book to figure out what’s missing, and what may pull it all together. In the last couple weeks, since finishing the Second Song (working title is now Cover Thy Sun, O Lord), I’ve discovered Clarina Nichols. Like a flash of lightning, I realized she is what what missing in the last three years I’ve been working on this novel.
I’ve read about her before and saw an exhibit that included her at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka; but the mountains of information I sift through to write these books are sometimes such that I miss important events or characters. Clarina was one of them, I’m almost ashamed to admit.
Clarina was a Free State reformer, but she brought to Kansas another issue: women’s suffrage. She labored to give Kansan women the right to vote, having emigrated from her native Vermont with the wise approach that a new state’s constitution would prove an easier political battleground than an established one. Her upstanding reputation, sharp logic, and wit were all tools she used to build public support for her cause. She is a fascinating character, and one that until recently was the “forgotten feminist.” I’m glad that is no longer the case.
And, every once in a while in historical research you come across a book so well written, one that brings its subject to life so well, you feel compelled to follow suit and do your best put the story into fiction. This book is a great example. Blackwell and Oertel had me in the first few pages. It’s certainly one of the more riveting tales of a territorial Kansans I have come across.
So, watch out for Clarina in Cover Thy Sun, but perhaps more importantly, her more inconspicuous daughter, Birsha.