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Lutz, Alma

LUTZ, Alma

Born 2 March 1890, Jamestown, North Dakota; died 31 August 1973, Berlin, New York

Daughter of George and Matilda Bauer Lutz

Alma Lutz was a freelance writer, journalist, and contributing editor of Equal Rights, the official journal of the National Women's Party. She achieved her literary prominence primarily as the biographer of 19th-century women leaders. Lutz's first work was Emma Willard: Daughter of Democracy (1929). For this narrative biography of the early 19th-century educator, Lutz focuses particularly on Willard's early pioneering investigatory work to prove women's intellectual capacity and on Willard's achievements through her Troy, New York, school. Lutz later published a revised edition of this book entitled Emma Willard, Pioneer Educator of American Women (1964). This second version gives a tightened, more sharply honed study of Willard's mature thought and practice. Lutz portrays with sympathetic insight the consistency of Willard's views in the midst of changing circumstance.

In 1940 Lutz turned to the women's rights movement, publishing Created Equal: A Biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Lutz gives relatively little attention to the formative experiences of Stanton's early life or even to her early career. She centers instead on the post-1860 years of Stanton's life, when she could devote nearly full-time attention to the women's rights cause as publicist, lecturer, and brilliant formulator of policy statements. Lutz places particular stress on Stanton as a "torchbearer for women," underscoring Stanton's broad-ranging concerns, the clarity of her perspective, and her role as pioneer anticipator of issues.

Lutz further extended the Stanton story by collaborating with Elizabeth's daughter, Harriot Stanton Blatch, in Blatch's memoirs, Challenging Years (1940). The memoirs themselves deal largely with the women's-rights efforts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the work about Stanton, Lutz reveals a keen appreciation of the importance of the Stanton-Anthony collaboration. In 1959 Lutz published a significant biographical study of that second figure, Susan B. Anthony: Rebel, Crusader, Humanitarian. Lutz thoughtfully appraises the complementary nature of the two women's work and also traces with careful precision the separate line of Anthony's thought and action. She underscores the crucial importance of Anthony's organizing ability and the unflagging involvement that made her eventually the symbol of the woman suffrage movement.

Lutz's final work on 19th-century women leaders was Crusade for Freedom (1968), a study of women's roles in the antislavery campaigns. In this collective biography, Lutz evaluates the work of such varied personalities as the early antislavery writer Elizabeth Chandler; the educator Prudence Crandle; and the lecturers-writers the Grimké sisters. She underscores the significance of the interwoven strands of antislavery efforts and the emerging women's rights movement. Lutz sees this same interweaving of concerns reemerging as an important theme of the 1960s.

Lutz was essentially a narrative biographer, concerned primarily with the broad public record of 19th-century women leaders. She developed a strong, dramatic style of writing and became a vivid portrayer of reform personalities. Though concerned with the ideas of the women's movement, Lutz focused primarily on the efforts to translate ideas into reality. She gave relatively little attention to intellectual history itself or to critical appraisal of the broad social context within which the women functioned. She excelled in the presentation of the individual personality and the detailed accounts of women's campaigns, rather than in analytical background studies.

Lutz's studies of Willard and of Stanton in particular were pioneering works. The Stanton work was the first significant appraisal of that leader since the general History of Woman Suffrage. The Anthony biography and the study of antislavery women presented more familiar material and drew more on well-known sources. The works provided dramatic restatements of these women's roles. Lutz wrote perceptively, lucidly, and with fervor about the 19th-century struggles for women's rights. She had a strong, appreciative sense of what had been achieved, but also a personal concern for the unfinished tasks. In the years between the first and second women's movements, Lutz kept before the general public the sharply lit images of forceful women leaders of the past.

Other Works:

Mary Baker Eddy Historical House, Swampscott, Massachusetts: The Birthplace of Christian Science (1935). Mary Baker Eddy Historical House, Rumney Village, New Hampshire: The Rumney Years (1940). With Love, Jane: Letters of American Women on the War Fronts (1945).

Bibliography:

Reference works: CA (1974). Permanent Series (1975). Other references: AHR (July 1959, Dec. 1968). New Enlgand Quarterly (Dec. 1959). NR (29 July 1940). NYT (9 June 1919, 1 Sept. 1973). Saturday Review (7 Mar. 1959).

—INZER BYERS

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