Stone, Lucy (1818–1893)

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Stone, Lucy (1818–1893)

American suffragist and abolitionist whose pioneering lectures on suffrage and work to change the legal status of women regarding property, custody, and voting rights earned her the movement's title of "morning star." Name variations: Lucy Stone Blackwell. Born Lucy Stone on August 13, 1818, in West Brookfield, Massachusetts; died of cancer on October 18, 1893, in Dorcester, Massachusetts; daughter of Francis Stone (a tanner and farmer) and Hannah (Matthews) Stone (a homemaker); attended Mt. Holyoke Seminary; Oberlin College, A.B., 1847; sister-in-law of Elizabeth Blackwell (1821–1910), Emily Blackwell (1826–1910), and Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825–1921); married Henry Browne Blackwell, in May 1855; children: Alice Stone Blackwell (1857–1950).

Refused church voting rights as a teenager because of gender; became first woman from Massachusetts to obtain a college degree (1847); hired as a public lecturer by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society (1847); expelled from her home church for her anti-slavery position (1851); wedding ceremony made notorious for inclusion of protest against the legal dominance of husbands (1855); called attention to suffrage issue by protesting against taxation without representation in New Jersey (1858); was a founding member of American Equal Rights Association (1866); was a founder of American Woman's Suffrage Association (1869); cofounded the weekly Woman's Journal newspaper (1870); was a member of New England Women's Press Association and Association of Collegiate Alumnae.

Lucy Stone was born on August 13, 1818, in West Brookfield, Massachusetts. The night before, her mother had milked the cows, because the men in the family had to gather in the hay crop threatened by a rainstorm. The next day, on hearing that she had given birth to a daughter, Hannah Matthews Stone groaned, "Oh, dear. I am sorry it is a girl. A woman's life is so hard."

Toward the mid-19th century, at the time Lucy Stone was growing up, a woman's legal status had been much the same for generations. She was the legal ward of her father, husband, or brother, and treated in the same manner as a child; if she owned property in her own name, she had to have the permission of her male "protector" in deciding its use. She could not make a contract or a will, could not sue or be sued, and if she had a husband, all her property and earnings belonged to him; it was also legal for him to beat her unless it was done "brutally"—a definition left up to the community and the judge to define. Until the late 1800s, married women had no custody rights to their children, but if an unwed woman had a child, the father had no legal responsibility to the woman or the child. And since women could not vote or be elected to office, they had no voice in the election of those who made these laws.

In pre-Civil War America, public opinion and predominant religious doctrine strenuously reinforced these legalities. At a time when the public was bitterly divided about the issue of slavery, and largely unwilling even to consider the question of what was known then as woman's rights, Lucy Stone was one of the abolitionists who recognized similarities between the positions of "free" women and of slaves. Thus, a career that began with espousing the cause of freedom and enfranchisement for African-Americans carried her quickly into the lifelong work she rendered "in vindication of the rights of women."

Lucy's childhood in the household of a stern father and a submissive mother cast the pattern for her campaign for women's rights. Born the eighth of nine children, she grew up seeing her mother forced to hide a few cents here and there to meet the family's needs. Francis Stone provided only what he considered necessary without regard for his wife's judgment on household requirements. In this, he was like most people of his time, believing that women and men had different "spheres" of activity which determined their correct and permanent relationships to each other. A woman's sphere was care of her family and home, and her proper relationship to

a man was to be obedient and supportive in all things; when she married, she went from her father's household to that of her husband, where she performed domestic tasks while bearing and raising children; if the family farmed, she also helped with animals and crops. She was considered to need little formal education.

In the Stone family, life was hard for everyone, with farm work both early and late. Francis had given into Hannah, leaving behind the rough and smelly work at a tannery to take up farming in order to provide their children with a healthier and more wholesome atmosphere. In addition to their farm work and schooling, Lucy and her sisters made extra money sewing rough shoes. Since Lucy was the fastest, she was required to make the most shoes per day.

On the other hand, the family had a strong tradition of individualism, public service, and education. The ancestors of Francis Stone had come from England in the 17th century for the sake of attaining religious liberty, and had been active in public life in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Hannah's family was also of English background, public-spirited, and accustomed to education. In Lucy's childhood, Massachusetts Spy, the Advocate for Moral Reform, and Youth's Companion were all household reading. Later, there were subscriptions to the Liberator and the Anti-Slavery Standard.

Early in life, Stone noticed the differences in the treatment of males and females, and felt the conflict between her strong individualism and the proper role for a young woman. There were no free public schools for girls, and when her father refused to buy her books, she collected nuts and berries to sell for book money. Raised in the Congregational Church, she saw that the women members had no voting rights, and upon reading the Biblical directive that a wife should be ruled by her husband, she asked her mother how she could do away with herself, because she could not accept being dominated by a man simply because of her gender. When Hannah replied, "It is a woman's lot, the curse of Eve ," Lucy began to suspect the source of this attitude. She decided to learn Hebrew and Greek in order to read the texts in the original to confirm the basis for so many unequal laws and customs.

The cause has been like a daughter to me…. I have rejoiced in every helpful thing done for it, and I have felt the pain of any disadvantage.

—Lucy Stone

Although Francis Stone expected to help his sons in attaining higher education, he was so surprised by Lucy's desire to go to college that he asked his wife if their daughter were insane. But Stone was qualified by then to teach in area schools, and she began saving on her own to continue her studies. After nine years, she entered Oberlin College in Ohio, the only institution of higher learning in the nation that had opened its doors to women. She was 25 years old.

Stone was a bright and earnest student, dividing her time between her classwork and duties as housekeeper for the Ladies Boarding Hall. During her first year, she also received special permission to teach in the classes set up for former slaves, where her manner and reasoning quieted the resistance of the men to having a female teacher. Two years later, her father had relented enough to loan her money, easing her workload, and her brothers helped out with small sums.

Although Oberlin supported the education of women and African-Americans, and took a centrist anti-slavery stance, there was no support on the campus for women's political rights. By 1845, Stone had been challenging this position for two years, when Antoinette Brown (Blackwell) arrived. Brown, who was to become the first woman in America ordained as a minister, later wrote that she had been warned to avoid Lucy Stone because of her radical views and behavior: "Of course, she became the one person whose acquaintance I most desired to make." The two became fast friends and, later, sisters-in-law.

At Oberlin, ironically, female students were allowed to study rhetoric, but not to practice what they learned by giving public addresses, even in class. Stone and Brown, seeking a means to debate, organized a small group which met in the woods, and later found a sympathetic black woman who allowed them to meet in her house. It was this connection, perhaps, that led to Stone's first public-speaking engagement, at a celebration of the freedom of West Indian slaves put on by the local African-American community. At school, she received a reprimand for appearing on a platform with men, as well as addressing an audience of both men and women.

Near the time of graduation, it was usual practice for the Oberlin senior class to choose several students to write and present essays at commencement. In her senior year, Stone received a strong nomination but declined to participate, because the women essayists were required to sit in silence while their papers were read by male professors. Many of Stone's colleagues also refused to participate, and there was even support from the school president for the women to be allowed to read, but there was opposition among the professors, and the Ladies' Board maintained the rule. Ironically, because Brown was in the Young Ladies' Course rather than the regular college program, she was allowed to present her essay. Nearly 40 years later, justice was served at the Oberlin Jubilee celebration when both Stone and Brown were invited to speak before a large audience of mixed races and sexes.

After college, Stone gave her first lecture at the church of her brother Bowman Stone, in Gardner, Massachusetts. The subject was women's rights, and the occasion was the first time an American woman ever spoke exclusively on this subject. Shortly afterward, she accepted a position as a lecturer with the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Association, becoming one of a handful of women, including Sarah and Angelina Grimké and Abby Kelley , willing to take a public stance in opposition to slavery, and thus to confront both racism and sexism. Traveling on the lecture circuit throughout the northeast, the western frontier, and border states, Stone faced the audiences who filled the lecture halls, often for no better reason than that they were curious to see a woman speaking in public. Despite the occasional verbal attack against her morality, and even physical ones against her person, Stone soon gained a reputation as a persuasive orator. Once, in midwinter, cold water was thrown on her through a window, but she never let such events discourage her from declaring her anti-slavery position. Several times, under the threat of a crowd, she was the only speaker who remained on the platform.

While still at Oberlin, Stone had become a Unitarian. In 1851, she was expelled from her home church for her anti-slavery position. At other times, the Anti-Slavery Society that employed her had to remind her that abolition was the subject she had been engaged to discuss, when her commitment to women's rights made it impossible for her to leave it out of her abolition speeches. When the issue came up, Stone would respond, "I was a woman before I was an abolitionist. I must speak for the women." And since the society did not want to lose such a convincing speaker, an agreement was eventually reached by which she spoke for the society on the weekends and arranged her women's rights lectures to occur during the week.

Audiences who came expecting a tall and aggressive woman with a strident voice were often quite surprised to find a small, genteel speaker with a musical voice. Stone's style and method were rational but not preachy, and earned her the title of "morning star" of the women's rights movement. Elizabeth Cady Stanton noted, "She was the first speaker who really stirred the nation's heart on the subject of women's wrongs," and Susan B. Anthony credited Stone with converting her to the cause.

At first, Stone charged nothing for her lectures on women's rights. Eventually, because "it kept out the stampers and the hoodlums, and in no wise prevented those who were interested in attending," she asked a small amount—"often but 12½ cents." In three years, she saved $7,000, to "put aside for old age. It represented my individual efforts." By this time, she was so well known that the Boston Post published a parody of a popular song, called "Lucy Long":

I just come out before you
To make a little moan;
I'll put it in the Boston Post
And call it Lucy Stone.

Succeeding verses described the sufferings of men due to Stone's speeches. The song ended:

A name like Curtius' shall be his
On fame's loud trumpet blown,
Who with a wedding kiss shuts up
The mouth of Lucy Stone!

When not traveling, Stone lived at her family's Massachusetts home. In 1850, returning from a trip west to care for a dying brother, she met Henry Browne Blackwell, the future brother-in-law of Antoinette (and brother of Emily and Elizabeth Blackwell ). Henry at first tried to match Stone with his older brother Samuel, then found himself unable to forget her.

When they first met, Stone frequently wore the "bloomer" costume, invented by Elizabeth Smith Miller and popularized by Amelia Bloomer . The outfit consisted of a jacket and a short skirt worn over trousers, and had been adopted by many advocates of women's rights for its liberating effects on physical movement compared to ordinary women's dress of the day. Henry Blackwell wrote that at first he found the costume unattractive, but he became accustomed to it and supported women who wore it. The unorthodox fashion was ridiculed by press and public alike, wearers were sometimes followed by crowds who could be both curious and antagonistic, and within a few years, most wearers decided that the harassment they received hindered their effectiveness by drawing attention away from the cause. Stone reluctantly gave up the comfort and practicality of the costume for one more publicly acceptable.

Henry Blackwell was an active abolitionist, which recommended him to Stone as a friend, but she had decided in her youth that she would never marry. Having been a firsthand witness to her mother's life, she preferred to keep her fate in her own hands. In 1853, after Blackwell began a concerted effort to change her mind, she made her position very clear in a letter:

[B]elieve me Mr. Henry Blackwell when I say (and Heaven is my witness that I mean what I say) that, in the circumstances I have not the remotest desire of assuming any other relations than those I now sustain.

Blackwell persisted, arguing that a marriage did not have to be based on ownership and domination, and eventually they reached the understanding that led to their wedding on May 1, 1855. The wedding ceremony became notorious for the inclusion of a marriage protest they had written which denounced certain legal rights of a husband and specifically named laws that put a wife in the same legal category as "minors, lunatics, and idiots." The protest was later published and led to the change of some laws, but it also caused opponents of the couple to charge that their marriage was not legal. Meanwhile, the letters they exchanged over their two-year courtship had led to a convergence of philosophies that made their 38-year marriage one of the most egalitarian of its era.

Some years earlier, Stone had formed the opinion that a woman who takes her husband's name gives up some of her individuality. Consultations with several attorneys, including a future chief justice of the Supreme Court, led her to conclude that the practice was only custom, not law, and she chose to be called Mrs. Stone. Though Susan Anthony feared that the marriage would curtail Stone's activism, she was thrilled with the name decision. "Nothing has been done in the woman's rights movement for some time," she wrote, "that so rejoiced my heart."

The decision led Stone to experience many inconveniences, however, especially in signing legal papers and hotel registers. In 1879, she was denied her first legal opportunity to vote, in a Massachusetts school election, because she refused to register under her husband's name. In 1921, the Lucy Stone League was organized, in memory of her steadfastness, to promote women's keeping their own names, and for a period, women who did so were known as "Lucy Stoners."

In the first year of their marriage, Stone and Blackwell traveled a good deal. In 1857, her trips were halted for the birth of their only child, Alice Stone Blackwell , who was given both her parents' last names. Stone tried lecturing again when Alice was a baby but was also conflicted about her role as mother. After a few minor incidents while she was away, she decided to stay home with Alice, a decision that led Anthony to comment, "what marriage had not done to Lucy Stone, motherhood did."

As both a trendsetter and a product of Victorian times, Stone struggled to reconcile her calling with being "a good wife and mother," resulting in some depression and health problems over the next several years. She continued to correspond with other suffrage leaders and to speak at women's rights conventions, however. The family moved from Ohio to New Jersey, where their house was put in Stone's name, and in 1858, she called attention to the suffrage question by protesting taxation without representation, allowing some personal property to be sold for taxes. A friendly neighbor bought and returned the goods to her.

Henry Blackwell continued to travel on business and attend meetings on suffrage for both African-Americans and women. The couple's activism on various aspects of the issue involved them in fundamental differences with other leaders in both camps, and eventually led to a breach within the women's rights movement.

The first women's rights meeting, organized by Stanton, Anthony, and others, had been held at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, drawing a largely local and regional attendance. Stone was lecturing about women's rights by then, but did not attend; two years later, she was an organizer of the first national women's rights convention, held in October 1850 in Worcester, Massachusetts. After that, she was active in each subsequent yearly meeting until activism was halted by the outbreak of the Civil War.

After the war, abolitionists turned their attention to full rights for African-Americans through the guarantees of the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution, which addressed due process and voting rights. Women's rights advocates saw these changes as opportunities for women's suffrage, too. Stone lobbied in state legislatures, in Congress, and with the public for women to be included on all suffrage ballots. She went on the lecture circuit again. By early 1867, she was as active as ever.

In 1866, she was a founding member of the American Equal Rights Association, formed out of the 11th National Woman's Rights Convention. While the effort to link male African-American and women's suffrage was ultimately unsuccessful, more women's suffrage associations were organized. Stone and Blackwell moved their family back to Massachusetts to work with the associations there. Located at what was to be her base for the rest of her life, Stone became a founder of the Woman's Journal, a weekly newspaper, in 1870, and continued to work as a lecturer and editor.

Divisions in the women's rights movement were meanwhile evident by 1867. By the 1869 meeting of the American Equal Rights Association, a group led by Stanton and Anthony formed the National Woman's Suffrage Association. Shortly afterward, Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and others formed the American Woman's Suffrage Association.

The split in the movement, which was to last 20 years, centered on philosophy and methods, and was complicated by personality conflicts. The Stanton-Anthony faction wanted all aspects of women's rights—including divorce, guardianship, and property laws—to be addressed along with the issue of suffrage. They believed that any allied legislation, persons, or actions advanced the cause, and thus stood against amendments that would give suffrage to blacks but not to women; they also accepted money and public association with advocates of radical social policies, including Victoria Woodhull , the free-love and women's-rights advocate who campaigned as a candidate for the presidency in 1870. This group also believed the national Congress was the most important institution for bringing about changes in women's rights.

Stanton and Anthony also understood, as Stone did not, that the labor movement, which had begun to spread, grew out of the same philosophical roots that had produced the abolitionist and women's rights movements. In the labor movement, they saw allies who understood being powerless, and who could perhaps be persuaded that their cause might also be enhanced by women's suffrage.

Stone's position was more conservative. Ideally, both women and African-Americans should receive the vote together, but the first priority, in her view, should be given to blacks. She also favored temperance, which alienated many men who had to vote for women's suffrage in the statewide referenda, the voting level that the Stone-Blackwell faction believed held most promise. Regarding labor, Stone was ambivalent or even opposed to their protests, asserting that unions dominated workers, who, if educated, could be free of unions and make the desired changes in their lives.

Because she refused to discuss the conflicts publicly, Stone's factional disagreements appeared one-sided in published accounts of the split, and her role is incompletely represented. In private, however, as evidenced by her correspondence, she could be harsh in criticizing her rivals. Her fiery temper and acerbic tongue, so different from her public persona, were tormenting aspects of her character dating from childhood, but often hidden behind acceptable Victorian social forms.

The divisions did not stop the momentum of women's rights, however, and with the passing of older advocates, the two factions reunited, in 1890, as the National American Woman's Suffrage Association. Two years earlier, at the 1888 International Council of Women in Washington, D.C., Anthony, Frances E. Willard and Julia Ward Howe had praised Stone's efforts. Stone had stopped lecturing in 1887, after which the Woman's Journal remained her outlet. Her last editorial was published only days before her death, at age 75, on October 18, 1893. That same year, at the Chicago World's Fair, a bust of Stone by sculptor Anne Whitney was displayed at the Women's Building. It was later placed in the Boston Public Library, while the Woman's Journal published continuously until 1917.

Blackwell, Alice Stone (1857–1950)

American feminist and reformer. Born on September 14, 1857, in Orange, New Jersey; died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on March 15, 1950; daughter of Lucy Stone (1818–1893) and Henry Browne Blackwell (both reformers); niece of Elizabeth Blackwell, Emily Blackwell, and Antoinette Brown Blackwell; graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Boston University, 1881; never married; no children.

Alice Stone Blackwell grew up surrounded by progressives. Her mother was Lucy Stone ; her father was Henry Browne Blackwell, brother of medical pioneers Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell and of Samuel Blackwell (husband of Antoinette Brown Blackwell ). After graduating from college (one of two women in a class of 26 males), Alice joined the editorial staff of her mother's Woman's Journal, an organ of her American Woman Suffrage Association, and soon became its primary force, a tenure that lasted for more than three decades. She also wrote a syndicated column that was printed in mainstream newspapers throughout the country.

It was Alice who encouraged her mother to reunite with the radical wing of the suffrage movement—Susan B. Anthony 's National Woman Suffrage Association. When the two groups consolidated in 1890 as the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Alice served as its corresponding secretary until 1918. She also founded Boston's League of Women Voters, stumped for the cause of Sacco and Vanzetti, and published and translated the work of oppressed minority groups, possibly because of a brief romance with an Armenian who died shortly after they met (it was her only known attachment). In 1930, she published a biography of her mother, Lucy Stone, which she had worked on for 40 years. After suffering severe financial reversals during the Great Depression, Alice Stone Blackwell spent her last years in a Cambridge apartment, blind but still aware; she died at age 92.

Lucy Stone had imagined that only a few people would attend her funeral; in fact, more than 1,100 crowded into the church. As progressive in death as she was in life, she had insisted on cremation, and became the first person so entombed in Massachusetts. Her husband and daughter continued to work for women's rights, remembering her last words: "Make the world better."


Blackwell, Alice Stone. Lucy Stone: Pioneer Woman Suffragist. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1930.

Hays, Elinor Rice. Morning Star: A Biography of Lucy Stone, 1818–1893. NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1961.

Scott, Anne Firor, and Andrew M. Scott. One Half the People: The Fight for Woman Suffrage. American Alternatives Series. Harold M. Hyman, ed. NY: J.B. Lippincott, 1975.

Wheeler, Leslie, ed. Loving Warriors: Selected Letters of Lucy Stone and Henry B. Blackwell, 1853 to 1893. NY: Dial, 1981.

suggested reading:

Kerr, Andrea Moore. Lucy Stone: Speaking Out for Equality. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992.

Lasser, Carol, and Marlene Merrill, eds. Soul Mates: The Oberlin Correspondence of Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown, 1846–1850. Oberlin, OH: Oberlin College, 1983.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage . eds. History of Woman Suffrage. Vols. I & II: NY: Fowler and Wells, 1881, 1882; Vols. II: Rochester, NY: Susan B. Anthony, 1886; Vol. IV: Rochester, NY: Susan B. Anthony and Ida Husted Harper , 1902; Vols. V & VI: NY: Ida Husted Harper, National American Woman's Suffrage Association, 1922.


Correspondence and papers collected under the title "The Blackwell Family Papers" in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress; and under the same title at the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College.

Margaret L. Meggs , Assistant to the Director, Women's Studies Program, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, and lecturer in Women's Studies, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro