How Genealogy Can Revive Mary and Thomas Nichols, Nearly Erased From History (Monthly Meetings)
General Meeting and Program: Saturday, April 15, 2017
Guest Speaker: Dr. Patricia Cline Cohen
Patricia Cline Cohen, Professor Emerita of History at UCSB, is writing a biography of an unusual couple, Mary and Thomas Nichols, who became prominent in the 1850s for their challenge to traditional patriarchal marriage which they argued was bad for both women and men. State-regulated lifelong monogamy made spouses into prisoners, they claimed. Marriage needed to be based on egalitarian principles fostered by mutual love, and if love faded, partners (and especially women) should be free to go and to follow their hearts. Their radical views attracted abundant negative newspaper coverage. They were especially spurned by the leaders of the emerging Woman’s Rights movement who feared that the Nicholses’ emphasis on women’s sexual autonomy would damage their own movement. Shunned by those who in theory could have been close allies, they moved to England in 1861, never to return. Their disappearance ensured that they would be left out of early histories of 19th century reformers; their letters were not purposely saved and archived. With the use of genealogical sources and methods, Pat Cohen has been able to restore their life stories and to understand how and why these two came to (and lived by) their radical ideas.
Patricia Cline Cohen was a member of UCSB’s History Department from 1976 to 2014 and taught early American History with emphasis on the history of women. She is the author of three books, including another genealogically-inspired work, The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Nineteenth-Century New York (1998). Recently she served as President of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. She has given talks to various Central Coast genealogical societies, and keynoted an annual meeting of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society on the research methods of her book on Helen Jewett. Pat has done research for two episodes of "Who Do You Think You Are?" and she appeared in one of them, in 2014, meeting with celebrity guest Cynthia Nixon in a ghostly decommissioned state penitentiary in Missouri. SBCGS welcomes members and the community to the General Meeting on Saturday, February 18, 2017, at the First Presbyterian Church, State and Constance. Special Interest Groups meet at 9:30 a.m. The short monthly meeting starts at 10:30 and the featured speakers begin their talks at 11 a.m.