Revolutionary Heart - Diane Eickhoff

Most women in modern times have a vague idea that things are "better" now than before - and that a few spots on the globe still present issues for humans who are born female. Sometimes it really helps to look back at a biography and realize how MUCH better things are now than before. Revolutionary Heart by Diane Eickhoff is one of those wake-up calls.

Revolutionary Heart tells the story of Clarina Nichols, born in a quiet town in Vermont in 1810. Her family is relatively well off and educates her - something rare for females of her time. Dutifully, she marries and attempts to settle down to the quiet life of a homemaker. But fate has other things in store for her.

Like many women throughout history, Clarina is not provided with a good husband. He squanders their money, and she is forced to work multiple jobs to keep them from starving to death. Even though she is earning all the money, and saving the family assets, the laws of the time say that the husband controls everything. Clarina hears this from friends and family all around her. The woman can slave from morning to night bringing in earnings - and the husband has full rights to spend it all on booze and gambling. If he dies from his excesses, she literally can be left with nothing. Clarina gets a divorce only years before her husband dies, and struggles to regain a footing for her family.

Soon Clarina has found a much more worthy husband, one who publishes a paper and both supports the family and supports her due rights as a contributing member. He lets her run the paper, and her works are highly praised. Soon she is lecturing around the country about the rights of women. These are rights we take for granted in modern times. The right of a woman to escape an abusive partner. The right of a woman to have at least a chance of custody of her children. The rights of a widow to have some access to the assets of the family, when her husband dies.

Clarina did not choose an easy life. She trudges through mud in Kansas. She risks life and limb going to speak in states that are full of violence. She in fact does not live to see the day when women are allowed, finally, to vote. In her world, women are not sent to school because their little brains are not capable of learning. A female doctor? Hah! Women could never understand anatomy and other issues involved in medical science. Women are only supposed to cook and clean.

On one hand this is a biography - it tells of the life and times of Clarina Nichols. But really, the book is written in a very moving and involving way. I read right throught he book, wanting to know what happened and spellbound at the hardships our ancestors struggled through. This isn't just the story of one woman who often risked it all to help convey her message. It is a reminder to all humans in our modern times of just how recently it was that entire blocks of humanity - blacks, females, non-land-owning white males - were denied the very basic rights. We take a lot for granted in our modern world. It's time we step back and realize just how precarious our position is - and how, if not for the daring steps taking by a few people - we could easily be in a position of complete helplessness, being condemned to a state that thousands of years worth of people were trapped in.

It's worth it to take a moment, each day, to give thanks that we were born in a time where we do have rights - and to reach out to support and help others who even now were unfortunate enough to be born in a location which denies them what we enjoy so easily.

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