Blackwell, Alice Stone

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BLACKWELL, Alice Stone

Born 14 September 1857, Orange, New Jersey; died 15 March 1950, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Daughter of Henry Blackwell and Lucy Stone

Alice Stone Blackwell was born into a unique family of reformers because the women were more distinguished than the men. Blackwell's aunt, Elizabeth Blackwell, was the first woman in America to receive a medical degree; another aunt, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, was the first woman ordained as a minister by a recognized denomination in the U.S.; and her mother, Lucy Stone, was president of the country's largest suffrage organization and publisher of its suffrage newspaper.

The Blackwell family lived and worked for the cause of female equality. This made life difficult for Blackwell—shy, homely, and unsure, she was the only child of her demanding parents. In her youth, Blackwell had rebelled against the cause that demanded so much of her mother's attention. But after graduation from Boston University, she gladly joined the suffrage ranks. For the next 35 years, she edited the Woman's Journal, the longest running, widest circulating feminist newspaper. She solicited contributions, cajoled advertisers, and wrote copy. Her editorials, along with her numerous suffrage tracts and pamphlets, were coolly logical arguments for the enfranchisement of women. Those same arguments are found in the Woman's Column, a fourpage collection of suffrage items also edited by Blackwell, sent weekly to 1,000 newspaper editors in the United States.

Blackwell's other contribution to suffragism was uniting the warring factions of the movement. The quarrel between the American Woman Suffrage Association, led by her parents, and the National Woman Suffrage Association of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony had begun in 1870. The split was prompted by the problem of black versus woman suffrage. Although the problem had long been solved, the division remained. By 1890, personalities, not philosophies, separated the two factions. Blackwell, guided by her mother, brought them together in the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

When Lucy Stone died in 1893, Blackwell took over the family business of suffrage and suffrage journalism. Her other reformist impulses, long suppressed in the atmosphere created by her parents, became visible. Blackwell put aside her causes long enough to write a laudatory biography of her mother. It was no doubt published to balance the bulk of suffrage history that Blackwell believed had been written by the Stanton-Anthony faction totally ignoring the contributions of the Blackwell family.

Blackwell's only brush with romance led her into another genre. In 1893, she met an Armenian theological student. She was entranced by him and his tales of the oppression of Armenia. When he died a few years later, Blackwell dedicated herself to his people, helping them find refuge in the U.S. She also translated the works of Armenian poets into English. A volume of these pieces, Armenian Poems, is heavily laced with patriotic outpourings. The offerings include "Let Us Live Armenians," "Let Us Die Armenians," "The Lament of Mother Armenia," and "The Wandering Armenian to the Swallows."

Her interest in Armenian verse led Blackwell to translate poetry of other suppressed peoples. During her middle years, she published the verse of Russian, Yiddish, Hungarian, and Spanish-speaking writers. Although in the original these poems may have been inspired, the translations are not. This no doubt reflects the fact that Blackwell's literary tastes and talents were extremely conventional.

Blackwell's support of socialism culminated the increasingly radical drift of her affiliations. Her first hesitant steps away from wholehearted adherence to suffragism had taken her to the Woman's Christian Temperance Movement, the Anti-Vivisection Society, and the Woman's Trade Union League. In later years she joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the American Peace Society, and the movement to save Sacco and Vanzetti. To the end of her life at the age of ninety-three, Blackwell's concerns embraced America and Armenia, feminism and socialism.

Other Works:

Songs of Russia (1906). Songs of Grief and Gladness (1906). The Yellow Ribbon Speaker (with A. H. Shaw and L. E. Anthony, 1909). The Little Grandmother of the Russian Revolution: Reminiscences and Letters of Catherine Breshkovsky (1917). A Hungarian Poet (1929). Some Spanish-American Poems (1929). Lucy Stone: Pioneer of Women's Rights (1930). Growing Up in Boston's Guilded Age: The Journal of Alice Stone Blackwell 1872-1874 (1991).

Bibliography:

Hays, E. R., Morning Star: A Biography of Lucy Stone (1961). Hays, E. R., Those Extraordinary Blackwells (1967). Howe, J. W., ed., Representative Women of New England (1904). Martin, J. L., Alice Stone Blackwell: Soldier and Strategist for Suffrage (1993). Rolka, G. M., 100 Women Who Shaped World History (1994).

Reference Works:

Grolier Library of Women's Biographies (1998). National Cyclopedia of American Biography (1892 et seq.). NAW, 1607-1950 (1971).

—LYNNE MASEL-WALTERS

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