img 2003-9-4 clarinaGrace Hudson's paternal grandmother, Clarina Irene Howard Carpenter Nichols (1810-1885), was the first born of eight children, and grew up in West Townshend, Vermont. At age fourteen she exhibited the keen mind and determination that were lifelong hallmarks of her character, when she avowed that she would rather have advanced schooling over a "setting out in the world," or dowry. Her father did eventually send her to a "select school" in West Townshend for further education, after which she taught for a year or two. At age 20, Clarina married Justin Carpenter, a recent law school graduate and member of a prominent local family. The young couple moved shortly thereafter to Brockport, a boomtown on the Erie Canal in western New York state. There Justin became active in civic life, opened a secondary school (the Brockport Academy), and published a temperance newspaper. Clarina is thought to have taught at the Brockport Academy, but also soon bore three children including Grace Hudson's father, Aurelius Ormando Carpenter. Justin, through a combination of bad luck, dour temperament, and poor business skills, floundered at his various enterprises and Clarina was increasingly called upon to contribute financially. After years of a deteriorating relationship and emotional abuse, Clarina separated from Justin in 1839, and returned with her children to her parents' home in Townshend. Turning to writing as a way to support herself, she became acquainted with George Washington Nichols, a widower more than 25 years her senior and the publisher of the Windham County Democrat in nearby Brattleboro. In 1843, Clarina was granted a divorce from Justin and she quickly married George. Within a year Clarina had born her fourth child, George Bainbridge, and was quietly running her husband's newspaper behind the scenes, as his health failed him.

The newspaper gave Clarina a forum to express her growing support of current social reforms, in particular those of temperance, abolition, and women's rights. She now began organizing women's rights conventions throughout the east, and was a much sought-after speaker. In 1852 she became the first woman to address the Vermont State Legislature, where she urged the passage of a law that would permit women to vote in district school elections. At this time she also began a friendship with women's rights activist Susan B. Anthony, that would last the rest of her life. Several years later, Nichols and her family joined the "free-soil" emigrants settling Kansas Territory, in part to work towards a government of "equality, liberty, fraternity" for women and blacks in the state-to-be. However, her weakened husband died within a year of their arrival, and son Aurelius left for California with his wife's family in 1857. Despite these losses, Clarina worked tirelessly for the causes of abolition and women's rights in Kansas. Briefly relocating to Washington, D.C. during the Civil War, she was employed as the matron of a home for freed slave orphan children. Meanwhile, largely due to Clarina's efforts, when Kansas entered the Union as a free state in 1861, its state constitution granted women the freedom to control property, share custody and vote in local school elections.

At age 61, Clarina migrated to Potter Valley with her youngest son George, his Wyandotte Indian wife, Mary, and their three children. Son Aurelius and his family were not far away in Ukiah. After Mary's death in 1873, Clarina helped raise George's children, while continuing extensive writing campaigns supporting her many causes. She remained a nationally recognized voice for women's rights throughout her latter years, and in truth paved the way for many of the civil liberties that women in this country now enjoy.