Lucy Stone, 1818-1893


No. 2304 Lucy Stone as a younger woman

Perhaps Lucy Stone’s greatest contribution was in founding and largely financing the weekly newspaper of the American Woman Suffrage Association, the Woman’s Journal. During a run of forty-seven years, under the editorship of Lucy, her husband Henry and later Alice Stone Blackwell, the Woman’s Journal more than any other journal was the voice of the woman’s movement.

Lucy Stone was born on August 13, 1818 in West Brookfield, Massachusetts. She was the first woman in America to earn a college degree. In 1847 she graduated from Oberlin College.

It took her nine years to raise the money for college. She wanted to study original Greek and Hebrew texts to learn if they were correctly translated enjoining the subjection of women. She was a powerful speaker for women’s rights and lectured all over the country and in Canada from 1847 to 1857.

In 1850 she led in calling the first national woman’s rights convention at Worcester, Mass. Lucy, who was only barely recovered from typhoid fever, made a speech that converted Susan B. Anthony to the cause. She married Henry Browne Blackwell, a Cincinnati hardware merchant and abolitionist in 1855 but kept her own name, calling herself Mrs. Stone. Her action added the phrase “Lucy Stoner” to the language to denote a married woman retaining her maiden name. The birth of Alice Stone Blackwell in 1857 led Lucy to give up some of her traveling and lecturing, but she continued to organize many campaigns for woman’s suffrage.

No. 14451 House on Boutwell Street purchased by Henry Blackwell and Lucy Stone

Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell moved to Boston in 1869 to found Woman’s Journal and bought a house on Boutwell Street (named for Governor Boutwell) in the Pope’s Hill section of Dorchester. There, they enjoyed the view and the sunsets over Boston Harbor and the Neponset River. Henry Blackwell supported and encouraged Lucy’s political views which were quite radical in her time.  Lucy edited and published Woman’s Jouirnal until her death in 1893, when her daughter Alice took over the paper.

They had one child, a daughter, Alice Stone Blackwell, 1858 – 1950.  Alice kept a diary of her teenage years which has recently been published – Growing Up in Boston’s Gilded Age: The Journal of Alice Stone Blackwell edited by Marlene Merrill.  Writing in The Dorchester Book in 1899 Alice described her mother: “She was a small woman, with a low voice, calm and gentle manners, and a face beaming with motherliness. ” Lucy Stone died in 1893 and was cremated at Forest Hills Cemetery – her last “first” – the first instance of cremation in the United States.

No. 12323 Lucy Stone

Daughter Alice took over as editor of the Women’s Journal and was active in obtaining the vote for women. Upon her father’s death in 1907 she offered the Boutwell Street home to Morgan Memorial for a dollar a year so “that poor children might visit the country, till the soil, and breathe clean air. ”

From Skteches of Representative Women of New England. (Boston, 1904),

Lucy Stone was born August 13, 1818, on a rocky farm on Coy’s Hill, about three mlles from West Brookfield,lam She was the daughter of Francis Stone and his wife, Hannah Matthews, and was the eighth of nine children. She came of good New England! stock. Her great-grandfather, Francis Stone, first, fought in the French and Indian War. Her grandfather, Francis Stone, second, was an officer in the war of the Revolution and afterward Captain of four hundred men in Shays’s Rebellion. Her father. the third Francis Stone, was a man of uncommon force and ability, as well of much natural wit and brightness. He had been a successful teacher and afterward an exceptionally skillful tanner in North Brookfield. Butt the moral surroundings of the ton-yard were so bad for the children that his wife, a beautiful, pious, and submissive woman, rose in rebellion against them, and insisted that for the children’s sake, the family must move away. Her husband yielded to her appeal. He moved to Coy’s Hill, and took up farming with his usual energy. It is said that, as he called the cows in the early morning, his fine, sonorous voice used to heard by the other famers for a mile around, and served as a sort of rising bell to the whole neighborhood. Mr. Stone was kind to poor, and was much respected in the community; hut he was fully imbued with the idea of right of husbands to rule over their wives, as were most men of his generation. His wife obeyed him implicitly, as a religious duty. Lucy was born about a year after her mother had made, in behalf of her children, almost the only determined stand in all her gentle life; and it has been suggested that this fact, through heredity, may have had some-thing to do with Lucy’s remarkable character.

Everyone on the farm worked. The mother milked eight cows the night before Lucy was born, a sodden thunder-shower having called all the men into the hay-field. She said regretfully, when informed of the sex of the new baby, “Oh, dear! I am sorry it is a girt. A woman’s life is so hard!”

Little Lucy grew up a healthy, vigorous child, noted for fearlessness and truthfulness, a good scholar, and a hard worker in the house and on the farm, sometimes driving the cows by starlight, before the sun was up, when the dew on the grass was so cold that she would stop on a flat stone and curl one small bare foot up against the other leg to warm it. There was no task about the house or farm so hard but she would grapple with it with cheerful resolution, if it needed to be done.

In the same resolute way she set herself to subdue the faults of her own character. She had a fiery temper.  One day when she was about twelve years old, her younger sister Sarah had angered her, and Lucy chased her through the house to inflict condign punishment. Happening to catch sight of her own face in a looking-glass, she was shocked by its whiteness and wrath. She said to herself, “That is the face of a murderer!” She went out and sat on a rock behind the barn, holding one bare foot in her hand and rocking to and fro, thinking what she could do to get the better of such a temper. She sat there till it was after dark, and her mother came to the door and called her in. From that time on she made a determined fight for self-control, and in her later life, the serene gentleness of her face and of her whole aspect made it hard for people to realize that she had ever had such a temper. The little girl early became indignant at the way she saw her mother and other women treated by their husbands and by the laws, and she made up her childish mind that those laws must be changed. Reading the Bible one day, while still a child, she came upon the text, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” .At first, she wanted to die. Then she revolved to go to college, study Greek and Hebrew, read the Bible in the original, and satisfy herself whether such texts were correctly translated.

Her father saw nothing strange about it when his sons decoded to go to college, hut, when his daughter wanted to go, he said to his wife, “Is the child crazy?” He would not help her. The young girl had to earn the money herself. She picked berries and chestnuts and sold them to buy books.  For years, she taught district schools, studying and teaching alternately. At first she was paid a dollar a week, and “boarded around.” She soon became known as a successful teacher, and gradually received a higher salary, but could never rise above sixteen dollars per mouth, which was considered “very good pay for a woman.” Once she was engaged to teach a winter school which had been broken up, the big boys throwing the master head foremost out of the window into a deep snowdrift.. As a rule, women were not thought competent to teach the winter term of school, because then the big boys were released from farm work and were able to attend.  In a few days she had this difficult school in perfect order•, and the big boys who had made the trouble became her most devoted lieutenants; yet she received only a fraction of the salary paid to her unsuccessful predecessor.

She studied for a time at the Monson, Quaboag, and Wilbraham Academies. Generally, she and her sister Sarah did not board at the academy, but for economy’s sake, took a room and cooked their own food, bringing most of their provisions from home.

An old schoolmate recalls the fact that she was already deeply interested in the abolition movement, and her compositions were always about slavery. About 1838, Lucy went to Mount Holyoke Seminary. Years before she had heard Mary Lyon make an appeal for funds for this effort in behalf of higher education for women. The sewing-circle with which Lucy was connected was at that time working In pay the expenses of a young man preparing for the ministry, and Lucy was making a shirt. She was much stirred by Mars’ Lyon’s presentation of the need of better educational opportunities for women, and by the thought of how much easier it was for any young man to earn his education than for a young woman to do so at a woman’s low pay, she ceased sewing upon that shirt and felt in her heart the hope that no one would ever finish it.  She spent less than a year at Mount Holyoke, being called hone by the death of an older sister; but she always retained an affection for the institution.

Instead of the mite-boxes for foreign missions that were the fashion among the Mount Holyoke students, Lucy kept in her room one of the little yellow collection boxes of the Anti-slavery

Society, which bore the picture of a kneeling slave holding up manacled hands, with the motto, “Am I not a man and a brother?” Into this she put all the pennies she could spare. She also placed William Lloyd Garrison’s paper. the Liberator, in the reading-room of the seminary. For some time, they could not find out who did it, bit they suspected Lucy because of her anti-slavery principles, and when they asked her, she acknowledged it at once. Even the saintly Mary Lyon was doubtful about the wisdom of allowing it. She said to Lucy, “You must remember that the slavery question is a very grave question, and a question upon which the best people are divided.”

At about the age of nineteen Lucy joined the Orthodox Congregational church in West Brookfteld. Soon after, Deacon Henshaw was brought to trial before the church for having entertained anti-slavery speakers at his house and otherwise aided and abetted the abolition movement. When the first vote was taken, Lucy, who did not. know that women could not vole in church meetings, held up her hand with the rest. The minister, a tall, dark man, pointed over to her, and said to the man who was counting the votes, “Don’t you count her.” The man said, “Why, isn’t she a member?” “Yes,” answered the minister, “she is a. member, but not a voting member.” His accent of scorn stirred her indignation. “Six votes were taken at that meeting, and I held up my hand every time,” she said to her daughter, raising her hand above her head, with a flash iu her eye, as she recalled the incident, while lying on her death-lied.  Deacon Henshaw, Lucy, and a number of  other members were later dropped from the rolls of the church for their activity in the anti-slavery cause.

On June 27, 1837, the General Association of the Orthodox Congregational Churches of Massachusetts met at Brookfield. There had been a great outcry against the anti-slavery speaking of Abby Kelley and the Grimke sisters; and a pastoral letter from the Association to the churches under its charge had been prepared, to be read at this meeting. The object of the letter was to chose the churches against anti-slavery lectures, and especially to silence the women.  It called attention to the dangers now weaning “to threaten the female character with wide-spread and permanent injury.” It claimed that the New Testament clearly defined “the appropriate duties and influence of women.  The power of woman is in her dependence.  When she assumes the place and tone of a man as a public reformer, our care and protection of her seems unnecessary; we put ourselves in self defense against her. She yields the power which God has given her for protection, and her character becomes unnatural.” The letter especially condemned those “who encourage females to bear an obtrusive and ostentatious part in measures of reform, and countenance any of that sex who so far forget themselves as to itinerate in the character of public lecturers and teachers.” This was the letter which Whittier called the “Brookfield Bull,” and of which he wrote.—

So this is all—the utmost reach

Of ‘priestly power the mind to fetter!

When laymen think. when women preach,—

A war of words—a ‘Pastoral Letter’!”

Lucy went to the meeting. The body of the church was black with ministers, and the gallery was filled with women and laymen. While the famous letter was being read, the Rev. Dr. Blagden marched up and down the aisle, turning his head from side to side and looking at the women in the gallery, as much as to say. “Now we have silenced you.” Lucy listened in great indignation, and at each aggravating sentence, she nudged her cousin, who said afterward that her side was black and blue. At the close of the meeting, she told  her cousin that, if she ever had anything In say in public, she would say it, and all the more because of that. pastoral letter

At the low wages received by women teachers, it took Lucy until she was twenty-five to earn the money to carry her to Oberlin, then the only college in the country that admitted women and colored men. Among most New Englanders Oberlin, was unpopular, partly because of its radicalism on the negro question and the woman question, but chiefly because the authorities of the college believed in the doctrine of “entire sanctification.” It was regarded as a highly heretical place, and the feeling against it was strong.   Deacon White, of West Brookfield, took the Oberlin Evangelist, but his wife would not touch the paper, and used to hand it to him with the tongs. Here or nowhere, however, Lucy had to get her collegiate education

She set out on the long journey to Ohio with only seventy dollars in her purse toward the expenses of the four years course, but with her heart full of courage and her bead of good common sense.  Crossing Lake Erie from Buffalo to Cleveland, she could not afford a state-room, but slept on deck on a pile of grain sacks, among horses and freight, with a few other women who, like herself, could only pay for a “deck passage.” At Oberlin she earned her way by teaching in the preparatory department of the college, and by doing housework in the Ladies’ Boarding Hal1 at three cents an hour. Most of tine students were poor, and the college furnished them board at a dollar week. But she could not afford even this small sum, and during most of her course, she cooked her food in her own room, boarding herself at a cost of less than fifty cents a week.  Her father’s disapproval of a collegiate education for girls finally gave way before his admiration of her sturdy perseverance, in which he perhaps felt something akin to his own character: and he wrote offering to lend her the money to carry her through the rest of her course, and urging her not to hurt her health by overwork. She would accept only a small sum, however, preferring to earn her own way as far as possible. She taught country schools during the vacations, and had some hard experiences, amusing to look back upon, in the rough and primitive neighborhoods of the new West. Throughout her college course, she wore cheap calico dresses with white collars, laundering them herself and being always so clean and trim that she used to be held up to the other young women the members of the Ladies’ Board as an example of how exquisite neatness could go hand in hand with the closest economy She had only one or twit new dresses while at Oberlin, and she did not go home once during the four years; but she thoroughly enjoyed college life, and found time also for good works.

Oberlin was a station on the “underground railway,” a town of strong anti-slavery sympathies, and many fugitive slaves settled there, A school was started to teach them to read, and Lucy was asked to take charge of it. The colored men, fresh from slavery and densely ignorant, still felt it beneath their dignity to be taught by a woman. Without letting her know this, the committee took her to the school and introduced her to them as their teacher, thinking they would not like to express their objections in her presence. But there was a murmur of dissatisfaction, and presently a tall man, very black, stood up and said he had nothing against Miss Stone personally, but he was free to confess that he did not like the idea of being taught by a woman. She persuaded them that it would be for their advantage to learn from anybody who could teach them to read; and her dusky pupils soon became much attached to her. When the Ladies’ Boarding Hall took fire, during her temporary absence, many members of her colored class rushed to the fire, bent on saving her effects. She was told on her return that a whole string of colored men had arrived upon the scene, one after another, each demanding breathlessly, “Where is Miss Stone’s trunk?”

Her first public speech was made during her college course. The colored people got up a celebration of the anniversary of West Indian emancipation, and invited her to be one of the speakers. The president of the college and some of the professors were also invited. She gave her address among the rest and thought nothing of it. The next day she was summoned before the Ladies’ Board (a sort of advisory board, composed of the professors’ wives, who supervised the young women of the college). They represented to her that it was unwomanly and unscriptural for her to speak in public. The president’s wife said: “Did you not feel yourself very much out of place up there on the platform among all. those men? Were you not embarrassed and frightened?”  “Why, no. Mrs. Mahan,” she answered. “Those men’ were President Mahan and my professors, whom I meet every day in the classroom. I was not afraid of them at all!” She was allowed to go, with an admonition.  She was repeatedly called before the Ladies’ Board to answer for some departure from custom, but she always defended herself with modesty and firmness, and she generally came off victorious.

She was always ready to lend a helping hand to any fellow-student who needed it.  She darned the young men’s stockings, mended their clothes and gave them sisterly sympathy and good counsel.  Old men still living speak with gratitude of her defending them from ridicule and taking them comfortingly under her wing when they were uncouth country boys, new to the college and its ways.  Many yellow old letters from her classmates, both men and women , testify to the deep impression her character made upon them, and the respect and warm affection that she inspired.

She was small and slender, with gray eyes a lovely rosy complexion, and dark born hair.  Her fine health made her always look younger than her age.  When between thirty and forty, she was sometimes taken for a girl of eighteen.

While Lucy was Oberlin, a beautiful and gifted girl, named Antoinette Brown, entered the college, with the purpose , up to that time unprecedented for a woman, of studying theology and becoming a minister.  In the stage-coach on her way to Oberlin, she was cautioned against a singular and dangerous young woman named Lucy Stone, whose radical ideas were the talk of the college.  In spite of this warning, Antoinette and Lucy contracted a friendship which was cemented in later life by their marring brothers.  These two girls and few of the others wished to practice themselves in discussion and asked leave to speak in the college debates.  These debates were a regular part of the course, and the young women were required to attend them, in order to furnish an audience for the young men but were not allowed themselves to take part. After a good deal of hesitation, permission was given for the girls to have on debate.  The acquitted themselves finely; but the faculty felt that any public speaking by women was unscriptural and improper, and the refused to let it be continued.  The young women the determined to have a debating society of their own. There lived in the village an old colored woman whose master had manumitted her and given her money enough to buy a small house. Lucy had taught her to read. The girls asked her if they might have the the use of her parlor occasionally for debating society.  At first, she was doubtful, fearing that the society might hr a cover for flirtation; but, when she found it was to consist of young women exclusively, she thought it must be an innocent affair, and gave her consent. So on the appointed afternoons, the girls would assemble, coming by different routes and in ones and twos at a time, that the faculty might suspect nothing; and then. shut up in the little parlor,. they “reasoned high” on all sorts of profound and lofty subjects. Sometimes they held their meetings in the woods. This was the first debating society ever formed among girls. Later Antoinette Brown became the first ordained woman minister. At the end of her course, Lucy was appointed to write an essay to be read at the commencement, but was notified that one of the professors would have to read it for her, as it would not be proper for a woman to read her own essay in public. Rather than not read it herself, she declined to write it. Nearly forty years afterward, when Oberlin celebrated its semi-centennial, she was invited to be one of the speakers at that great gathering. So the world moves.

Lucy had an enthusiastic admiration and respect for the leading abolitionists and helped to get up meetings for Abby Kelley, William Lloyd Garrison and others, when they lectured at  Oberlin. Mr. Garrison wrote from Oberlin to his wife, August 28, 1847: “Among others with whom I have become acquainted is Miss Lucy Stone, who has just graduated, and yesterday left for her home in Brookfield, Mass. She is a very superior young woman, and has a soul as free as the air, and is preparing to go forth as a lecturer, particularly in vindication of the rights of women. Her course here has been very firm and independent, and she has caused no small uneasiness to the spirit of sectarianism in the institution,” Yet, in spite of all the uneasiness her progressive ideas caused them, she was a favorite with both faculty and students. As one of the professors said to her, years after, “You know we always liked you, Lucy.”

Lucy Stone was the first woman in Massachusetts to take a college degree. She gave her first woman’s rights lecture the same year, in the pulpit of her brother’s church at Gardner, Mass. Soon after, she was engaged to lecture regularly for the Anti-slavery Society. Public sentiment in New England at that time was intensely pro-slavery, and the idea of equal rights for women was even more unpopular than that of freedom for the slaves. Lucy shared the hard campaign experiences of al the other early apostles.  Once she went to lecture at Hinsdale, away up among the hills. Samuel May, the agent of the Anti-slavery Society, who made the arrangements for her meetings, had written to the Unitarian minister, asking him to give notice of the lecture. When Lucy got there. she found that he was strongly opposed.  He had not given the notice and would not give it. So Lucy put op her own posters, as she often had to do, with n little package of tacks and a stone picked up from the street. Then she went from house to house, telling everybody about the meeting and asking them to come. She worked all day without food, not having time to stop to eat; and then, toward evening, toiled up the long hill to the tavern. The tavern-keeper’s wife was tired and overworked, with two or three little children clinging to her skirts. Lucy said to her: “I must have some sapper before my lecture. Get me whatever you can get most easily, for I ant hungry enough to eat anything; and I will take care of the children for you meanwhile.” The children were delighted to come to her, and she told them stories all the while that supper was preparing. The tavern-keeper’s wife chopped up meat and potatoes, and made hash; but in her hurry she forgot to take out of the chopping-howl the dish-cloth with which she had wiped it and chopped up the cloth with the hash. At the first mouthful that Lucy took, she found pieces of the dish-towel in it. This took away her appetite, and she could not eat any more; so she went to her lecture fasting.  “The boys threw paper wads at first,” she said, “but it was a good meeting, and I got some subscribers for the Anti-slavery Standard there, who kept on taking it as long as it was published.”

The next day she went on to the next little town, Dalton, and here again she had to put up her own posters. As she was preparing to post some of them on the bridge, she was followed by a lot of boys, who thought it a great “lark.” They regarded it as a most improper thing for a woman to be lecturing and putting up hand-bills; and, like the Unitarian minister at Hinsdale. they were filled with the bitter opposition to the abolition of slavery which then pervaded the whole of New England.  So the boys came after her, intending to tear her posters down.  But she turned around anal told them what slavery was—making men work without paying them for it, and selling boys like them on the auction block—till she got them all on her side, and they let her posters alone. The meeting that night was in a dirty and disagreeable town hall, with a great yawning fireplace, paper strewn about the floor, boys throwing wads, and men swearing. Rows of jeering faces confronted her when the meeting began, but, as usual, after she had spoken a few moments, she saw the mockery die out of them and attention take its place.

The history of these two days may serve as a sample of the work she did for years. Once a hymn-book was thrown at her head with stunning force. Once in winter, a pane of glass was removed from the window behind her, a hoe was put through, and she was suddenly deluged with ice-cold water while speaking. She put on her shawl, and continued her lecture. Pepper was burned, and recourse was had to all sorts of devices in order to break up the meetings, but generally without success.

The work had also its pleasant side, There was cordial hospitality iu anti-slavery homes, where all the children loved and welcomed her; and there was rich and inspiring communion with her fellow-reformers, the noblest spirits of that stormy time. When she visited the old home farm, in the intervals between her lecturing trips, it was always a day or rejoicing for her brother’s children, who found “Aunt Lucy” the most delightful of playmates. She thoroughly enjoyed her work, despite its hardships.  Looking back upon it in after years, she said “I never minded those hard old times a bit.”

She mixed a great deal of woman’s rights with her anti-slavery lectures. One night, after her heart had been particularly stirred on the woman question, she put into her lecture so much of woman’s rights and so little of abolition that the Rev. Samuel May felt obliged to tell her, in the most friendly way, that on the anti-slavery platform, this would not do. She answered: “ I know it, but I could not help it. I was a woman before I was an abolitionist and I must speak for the women.” She resigned her position as lecturer for the Anti-slavery Society, intending to devote herself wholly to woman’s rights. They were very unwilling to give her up, however, as she had been one of their most effective speakers; and it was finally arranged that she should speak for them Saturday evenings and Sundays—times which were regarded as too sacred for any church or hall to be opened for n woman’s rights meeting—and during the rest of the week, she should lecture for woman’s rights on her own responsibility.

Her adventures during the next few years would fill a volume. No suffrage association was organized until long after this time. She had no co-operation and no backing and started out absolutely alone. So far as she knew, there were only a few persons in the whole country who had any sympathy with the idea of equal rights for women.

She travelled over a large part of the United Slates. In most of the towns where she lectured, no woman had ever spoken in public before, arid curiosity attracted immense audiences, The speaker was a great surprise to them. The general idea of a woman’s rights advocate, on the part of those who had never seen one, was of a tall, gaunt, angular woman, with aggressive manners, a masculine air, and a strident voice, scolding at the men. Instead, they found a tiny woman, with quiet, unassuming manners, a winning presence, and the sweetest voice ever possessed by a public speaker. This voice became celebrated. It was so musical and delicious that persons who had once heard her \lecture, hearing her utter a few words years afterward, on a railroad car or in a stage-coach, when’ it was too dark to recognize faces, would at once exclaim unhesitatingly, “That is Lucy Stone!”’

Old people who remember those early lectures, say that she had a wonderful eloquence. There were no tricks of oratory, but the transparent sincerity, simplicity, and intense earnestness of the speaker. added to a singular personal magnetism and an utter forgetfulness of self, swayed those great audiences as the wind bends a field of grass. Often mobs would listen to her when they howled down every other speaker. At one woman’s rights meeting in New York, the mob made such a clamor that it was impossible for any speaker to be heard. One after another tried it, only to have his or her voice drowned forthwith by hoots and howls. William Henry Claiming advised Lucretia Mott, who was presiding, to adjourn the meeting. Mrs. Mott answered,, “When the hour fixed for adjournment comes, I will adjourn the meeting, not before.” At last Lucy was introduced. The mob became as quiet a congregation of church-goers; but, as soon as the next speaker began, the howling recommenced, and it continued to the end. Atl the close of the meeting, when the speakers went into the dressing-room to get their hats and cloaks, the mob surged in and surrounded them: and Lucy, who was brimming over with indignation, began to reproach them for their behavior. ”Oh, come,” they answered, “you needn’t say anything: we kept still for you!”

At an anti-slavery meeting hold on Cape Cod, in a grove, in the open air, a platform had been erected for the speakers, and a crowd assembled, but a crowd so menacing in aspect and with so evident an intention of violence that the speakers one by one came down front the stand and slipped quietly away, till none were left but Stephen Foster and Lucy Stone. She said, “You had better run. Stephen: they are coming,” He answered, “But who will take care of you?” At that moment, the mob made a. rush for the platform, and a big man sprang up on it, grasping a club. She turned to him and said without hesitation, “This gentleman will take care of me.” He declared that he would. He tucked her under one arm, and, holding his club with the other, marched her inn through the crowd, who were roughly handling Mr. Foster and such of the other speakers as they had been able to catch. Her representations finally so prevailed upon him that he mounted her on a stump, and stood by her with his club while she addressed the mob. They were so moved by her speech that they not only desisted front further violence, but took up a collection of twenty dollars to pay Stephen Foster for his coat, which they had torn in two front top to bottom.

When she began to lecture, she would not charge an admission fee, partly because she was anxious that as many people as possible should hear and be converted, and she feared that an admission fee might keep some away, and partly from something of the Quaker feeling that it was wrong to take pay for preaching the gospel. She economized in every way. When she stayed in Boston, she used to put up at a lodging-house on Hanover Street, where they gave her meals for twelve and a half cents and lodging for six and a quarter cents, on condition of her sleeping in die garret with the daughters of the house, three to a bed.

Once, when she was in great need of n new cloak, she came to Salem, Mass., where site was to lecture, and found that the Hutchinson family of singers were to give a concert the same evening. They proposed to her to unite the entertainments and divide the proceeds.  She consented and bought a cloak with the money. She was also badly in want of other clothing. Her friends assured her that the audiences would be just as large despite an admission fee. She tried it, and, finding that the audiences continued to be as large as the halls would hold, she continued to charge a. dour fee, and was no longer reduced to such straits,

She had three lectures, on “The Social and Industrial Disabilities of Women,” “The Legal and Political Disabilities of Women,” and “The Religious Disabilities of Women.” In the early fifties she gave these three lectures at Louisville, Ky., to immense audiences, thereby clearing six hundred dollars, and was invited to stay and give another on temperance.  From these four lectures in St. Louis she cleared seven hundred dollars.

She headed the call for the first National Woman’s Rights Convention, held in Worcester, Mass., October 23 and 24, 1850, and took a leading part in getting up the meeting. The report of this convention in the New York Times converted Susan B. Anthony to woman suffrage, and led John Stuart Mill’s wife to write for the Westminster Review an article which was the starting-point of the equal rights movement in England. This convention was also the first that called  wide public attention to the question in this country, although the attention was mostly in the way of ridicule. Year after year, Lucy Took the laboring oar in getting up conventions and in printing and selling the woman’s rights tracts at the meetings. She was “such a good little auctioneer, said one who remembered her well.

On May 1. 1855, Lucy married Henry B. Blackwell, a young hardware merchant of Cincinnati. His father, a sugar refiner of Bristol, England, highly respected for his integrity, had come to this country in 1832, and in 1837, had gone out to Ohio, with the hope of eventually introducing the manufacture of beet sugar and thus dealing a severe blow at slavery by making the slave-grown cane sugar unprofitable. Before he could carry out this plan, he died suddenly in Cincinnati, leaving his wife and large family of young children dependent on their own exertions. The mother and elder daughters opened a school. One of them studied medicine and became the first woman physician, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. The boys went into business. Henry had marked talent and energy, great eloquence, a kind heart, and an unparalleled gift of wit and fun. Ile was a woman’s rights man and a strong abolitionist. In consequence of the active part he had in rescuing a little colored girl from slavery, a reward of ten thousand dollars had been offered for his head at a public meeting at Memphis, Tenn. In 1853 he hail attended the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention at the State House in Boston, when Wendell Phillips, Theodore Parker, T. W. Higginson, and Lucy Stone spoke in behalf of a woman suffrage petition headed by Louisa Alcott’s mother; and he had made up his mind at that time to marry Lucy if he could.  Armed with a letter of introduction from Mr. Garrison, he sought her out at her home in West Brookfield, where he found her standing on the kitchen table, whitewashing the ceiling.  He had a long and arduous courtship.  Lucy had meant never to marry, but to devote herself wholly to her work.  But he promised to devote himself to the same work and persuaded her that together they could do more for it than she could alone.  The wedding took place at the home of the bride’s parents at West Brookfield, Mass.  The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who afterward left the ministry for reform work and the army, and is now better known as Colonel Higginson.

On the occasion of the marriage, they issued a protest against the inequalities then existing in the marriage laws.  It was widely published and helped to get the laws amended.  Mr. Higginson sent it to the Worcester Spy, with the following letter—

“It was my privilege to celebrate May-day by officiating at a wedding in a farm-house among the hills of West Brookfield.  The bridegroom was a man of tried worth, a leader in the Western anti-slavery movement; and the bride is one whose fair name is known throughout the nation, one whose rare intellectual qualities are excelled by the private beauty of her heart and life.

“I never perform the marriage ceremony without a renewed sense of the iniquity of our present system of laws in respect to marriage—a system by which ‘man and wife are one, and that one is the husband.’  It was with my hearty concurrence, therefore, that the following protest was read and signed, as a part of the nuptial ceremony; and I send it to you, that others may be induced to do likewise.”

The protest was as follows:–

“While acknowledging our mutual affection by publicly assuming the relationship of husband and wife, yet, in justice to ourselves and a great principle, we deem it our duty to declare that this act on our part implies no sanction of nor promise of voluntary obedience to such of the present laws of marriage as refuse to recognize the wife as an independent, rational being, while they confer upon the husband as injurious and unnatural superiority, investing him with legal powers which no honorable man would exercise, and which no man should possess. We protest especially against the laws which give the husband:—

” I. The custody of the wife’s person.

“2. The exclusive control and guardianship of their children.

“3. The sole ownership of her personal and use of her real estate. unless previously settled upon her or placed in the hand of trustees, as in the case of minors, idiots, and lunatics.

“4. The absolute right to the product of her industry.

“5. Also against laws which give to the widower so much larger mill more permanent an interest in the property of his deceased wife than they give to the widow in that of her deceased husband.

“6. Finally, against the whole system by which ‘the legal existence of the wife is suspended during marriage,’ so that, in most States, she neither has a legal part in the choice of her residence, nor can she make a will, nor sue or be sued in her own name, nor inherit property.

“We believe that personal independence and equal human rights can never be forfeited, except for crime; that marriage should he an equal and permanent partnership, and so recognized by law; that, until it is so recognized, married partners should provide against the radical injustice of present laws by every means, in their power.

“We believe that, where domestic difficulties arise, no appeal should be made to legal tribunals under existing laws, but that all difficulties should be submitted to the equitable adjustment of arbitrators mutually chosen.

“Thus, reverencing law, we enter own protest against rules and customs, which are unworthy of the name, since they violate justice, the essence of law,”

(Signed) Henry B. Blackwell

Lucy Stone,

West Brookfield, Mass. May 1, 1855.

Lucy regarded the loss of a wife’s name at marriage as a symbol of the loss of her individuality. Eminent lawyers, including Ellis Gray Loring and Samuel E. Sewall, told her there was no law requiring a wife to take her husband’s name, that it was only a custom and not obligatory; and the Chief Justice of the United States (Salmon P. Chase) gave her his unofficial opinion to the same effect.  Accordingly, with her husband’s full approval, she kept her own name and continued to be called by it during thirty-six years of faithful and affectionate married life,

The account of her later years must be condensed into a few lines. She and her husband lectured together in many States, took part in most of the campaigns when suffrage amendments were submitted to popular vote, addressed legislatures, published articles, held meetings far and wide, were instrumental in securing many improvements in the laws of many States. and together did an unrecorded and incalculable amount of work in behalf of equal rights. A few years after her marriage, while they were living in Orange, N.J., Mrs. Stone let her goods be seized and sold for taxes. Among the things seized was the baby’s cradle; and she wrote a protest against taxation without representation, with her baby on her knee. In 1866, she helped to organize The American Equal Rights Association, which was formed to work for both negroes and women, and she was chairman of its executive committee. In 1869, with William Lloyd Garrison, George William Curtis, Colonel Higginson, Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, Mrs. Mary A. Livermore, and others, she organized the American Woman Suffrage Association, and was chairman of its executive committee for nearly twenty years. She always craved, not the post of prominence, but the post of work.  Most of the money with which the Woman’s Journal was started in Boston in 1870, was raists1 by her efforts. When Mrs. Livermore, whose time was under increasing demand in the lecture field, resigned the editorship in 1872, Mrs. Stone and her husband took charge of the paper, and edited it from that time forth. Since her death, it has been edited by her husband and daughter. In her latter years, she was much confined at home by rheumatism, but worked for suffrage at her desk as diligently as she used to do upon the platform. To the end of her life, despite her infirmities, she did more public speaking than most younger women. Her sweet, motherly face, under its white cap, wits dear to the eyes of audiences at suffrage gatherings, and it was said of her that she looked like “the grandmother of all the good children.”

She was an excellent housekeeper, of the old New England type. She dried all the herbs, and put up all the fruits in their season. She prepared her own dried beef, mode her own yeast, her own butter, even her own soap. She always thought the home-made soap was better than any she. could buy. She was au accomplished cook, and her family were never better fed than during the occasional interregnums between servants.

All the purely womanly instincts were strong in her. Even in her old age her ideas about love were what most people would regard as romantic. She was as fond of a love story as any girl of sixteen, provided it were a simple and innocent love story. She was attracted by all children, dirty or clean, pretty or ugly. Her face always beamed at the sight of a baby; and on countless occasions on boat or train, during her lecture trips, she helped worried and anxious young mothers to care for and quiet a crying child. All children loved her. What she was to her own daughter no words ciouldtell.

A friend writes:—

“No one who was privileged to partake of Mrs. Stone’s hospitality could fail to note her kindly concern for every one beneath her roof and for all the loud, creatures belonging to the household. But feu knew how far-reaching was that spirit of kindliness, how many her motherliness brooded over. Flowers and fruits were sent from her garden, boxes of clothing went West, North, and South, a host of women who came to her in distress were helped to work or tided over hard places. She gave freely, and every gift was accompanied by thoughtful care and heart-warmth. She was never too busy to gladden the holds of the children who cattle into her presence by gift of flower or fruit or picture, or by the tolling of a story.”

She took keen delight in all the beauties of nature. As a child, her favorite reward, when she had done well at school, was to be allowed by the teacher to sit on the floor, where she could look up through the window into the shimmering foliage of n grove of white birches.

She was the most perfectly fearless human being 1 ever knew. 1 have heard her say that in the mobs and manifold dangers of the anti-slavery times she was never conscious of a quickened heart-beat. In all the emergencies of a long life, in accidents, alarms of fire, of burglars, etc., we never saw her fluttered. “The gentlest mid most heroic of women:’ was her husband’s description of her. When, in 1893, her strength failed, and she found that she was suffering from an illness from which she could not recover, she was perfectly serene and fearless, and made all her preparations to go, as quietly as if she were only going into the next room. As long as she was able to think and plan at all, she thought for others, and planned for their comfort. As she lay in bed, too weak to move, she still tried to save every-body steps, to spare the servants, to see that guests should be made comfortable, and that a favorite dish should be prepared for the niece who had come to nurse her.

The beyond had no terrors for her. She said to her daughter, with her accent of simple and complete’ conviction: “I have not the smallest apprehension. I know the Eternal order,. and I rejoice in it.”  Something being said by a friend, who was a Spiritualist, about her possibly coming back to communicate with those she had left, she answered, “I expect to be too busy to come back.” To another friend she said, ‘ I look forward to the other side as the brighter side, and I expect to it to be busy for good things.”  To still another, who expressed grief that she should not list to see women vote, she answered: “Perhaps I. shall know it. where I am; and, if not, I shall be doing something better. I have not a fear, nor a dread, nor a doubt.”

When a letter from the Women’s Press Association was read to her, speaking warmly of

her work, she said slowly: ” I think l have done what I could; I certainly have tried. With one hand 1 made my family comfortable; with the other”— Here her voice failed through weakness. Undoubtedly she meant, that with the other hand she had worked to get the women their rights.

To the last she went on with the same two-fold line of thought, planning for the comfort of her family and the carrying on of the household after she should be gone, and also planning for the carrying on of the suffrage work and of the Woman’s Journal,  “the dear little old Woman’s Journal,” as she called the paper into which she had put so much of her heart and life.

The last letter but one that she wrote was to a prominent Colorado woman, commending Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt to her, and earnestly asking her to help the passage of the pending suffrage amendment. The last letter of all was written to her only surviving bother, twelve years her senior. When he came to see her during her last illness, he said to her with tear,. “You have always been more like a mother than a sister to me.

On October 18, she passed quietly away. On the last afternoon, she looked at me and seemed to wish to say something. I put my ear to her lips. She said distinctly, “Make the world better.” They were almost her last articulate words.

Always very modest in her estimate of herself, she had told her family that it would not be worthwhile to have the funeral in a church; there would not be enough people who would care to come. A silent and sorrowing crowd filled the street before the Church of the Disciples long before the doors were opened, and eleven howbeit people listened to the tributes paid her by some of the noblest men and women of America. By her own wish there was nothing lugubrious about the funeral; everything was cheerful and simple. By her own request, also, the service included the reading of two poems of Whittier’s, containing the lines:—

“Not on a blind and aimless way

The spirit goeth,”


“I know not where His islands lift

Their fronded palms in air;

I only know I cannot drift

Beyond His  love and care.”

Even the newspapers, those that had always opposed equal rights for women, heaped praises upon her; and a lifelong adversary of hers said. “The death of no woman in America has ever. called out so widespread a tribute of affection and esteem.”

She had not the smallest thirst for fame. It has been hard to compile any adequate account of her life, because she kept no record or her work, never cared to preserve her press notices, and refused, almost with horror, all requests front ‘publishers of books about “famous women” to furnish material for a biographical sketch of herself. She thought it hardly worth while that any account of her should ever be written. Yet this very fact, while it greatly increases the difficulties of her biographer, is perhaps in itself the strongest testimony to the spirit in which she did her work. During her last illness she took pleasure in the following lines, which she had clipped from some newspaper:—

“Up and away like the dew of the morning

That soars from the earth to its home in the sun,

So. let me steal away, gently and lovingly,

Only remembered by what I have done.

“My name mad my place and my tomb all forgotten,

The brief race of time well and patiently run,

So let me pass away, peacefully, silently.

Only remembered by what I have done.


Needs, there the praise of the love-written record,

The name and the epitaph graved on the statue?

The things we have lived for, let them be our story;

We ourselves but remembered by what we have done:”

Alice Stone Blackwell.


Posted on

December 26, 2021

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