Lucy Stone

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Lucy Stone (August 13, 1818 – October 19, 1893) was a prominent American abolitionist and suffragist, and a vocal advocate and organizer promoting rights for women. In 1839, Stone was the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree. She spoke out for women's rights and against slavery at a time when women were discouraged and prevented from public speaking. Stone organized the first national women's rights convention and helped establish the largest group of like-minded reformers, the American Woman Suffrage Association. Once called "the morning star of the woman's rights movement",[1] Stone was the first recorded American woman to keep her own last name upon marriage. Susan B. Anthony acknowledged that a speech by Stone sparked her initial interest in suffrage, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote that "Lucy Stone was the first person by whom the heart of the American public was deeply stirred on the woman question."[2]

Early life and influences

Lucy Stone was born on August 13, 1818 on her family's farm in Coy's Hill, West Brookfield, Massachusetts. She was the eighth of nine children, and as she grew up, she watched her father rule the household and his wife by "divine right". Disturbed when her mother had to beg her father for money, she was also unhappy with the lack of support in her family for her education. She was faster at learning than her brother—but he was to be educated, she was not.

Stone was inspired in her reading of works by the Grimké sisters, abolitionists but also proponents of women's rights. Stone determined in 1838 that she would call no man master. When the Bible was quoted to her, defending the positions of men and women, she declared that when she grew up, she'd learn Greek and Hebrew so she could correct the mistranslation that she was confident lay behind such verses. Growing up, Stone attended a Congregationalist church.

Secondary education

Stone's father would not help pay for her education, so she alternated her own education with teaching to earn enough to continue. She attended several institutions, including Mount Holyoke College (then Mount Holyoke Female Seminary) in 1839. In 1843 when she was 25, she had saved enough to fund her first year at Oberlin College in Ohio, the country's first college to admit both women and African Americans. She entered the college believing that women should vote and assume political office, that women should study the classic professions and that women should be able to speak their minds in a public forum. Oberlin College did not share all of these sentiments.[3]

Student headaches

In her first year at Oberlin, Stone experienced severe headaches, though she was in otherwise excellent health. She took to removing her bonnet during Sunday sermons to ease the pain, but was required to sit in the back row so that others would not see her bareheaded in church.[4]

At Oberlin, Stone befriended Antoinette Brown, an abolitionist and suffragist who came to Oberlin in 1845 to study to become a minister.[5] Stone and Brown would eventually marry abolitionist brothers and thus become sisters-in-law.

Public speaking

Stone and Brown both took part in Oberlin's rhetoric class, but women were not allowed to speak in public, supposedly because of specific passages in the Bible which forbade it. Women studying rhetoric were required to do so by listening to the men debate. Stone learned enough Hebrew and Greek to read passages of the Bible in an earlier form, and determined that the Bible was 'friendly to women'. Stone and Brown both intended to speak in public after graduation, and they convinced Professor James A. Thome, the head of the department and a liberal Southerner who had freed his slaves, to let them debate each other.[6] The session was heavily attended, and the debate "exceptionally brilliant",[7] but, through complaints from the Ladies' Board (an organization of faculty wives), the college clamped down on any further such experiments. Stone and Brown formed a women's debating society and held clandestine meetings in the nearby woods, posting sentries to maintain privacy. Stone's first solo speech was given at Oberlin during an exuberant college-wide celebration of the anniversary of West Indian emancipation, and Stone was quickly called before the Ladies' Board to answer for her transgression. She defended her actions forthrightly, saying that women should not act timid and ladylike if doing so lent credence to the idea that women did not want to speak in public rather than the truth which was that they were being prevented by men from doing so.[8]

In 1847, after four years of study at Oberlin College, all the while teaching, mending clothes and cleaning houses to pay for the costs, Lucy Stone graduated with honors. She was selected by a vote of her classmates to write a commencement speech for them. She petitioned the college for the opportunity to read such an address herself—a college professor was to read it instead. The petition was refused by the Ladies' Board on the grounds that it was improper for a woman to speak in front of both men and women. Stone decided not to write the essay; she determined that she would do nothing to publicly acknowledge "the rectitude of the principle which takes away from women their equal rights, and denies to them the privilege of being co-laborers with men in any sphere to which their ability makes them adequate; and that no word or deed of mine should ever look towards the support of such a principle, or even to its toleration."[9] Two men and all but one of the women who had been asked to submit essays for graduation declined out of respect for Stone; all of the students appointed to replace them refused as well.[10]

Abolitionist and suffragist

Lucy Stone as a young woman

Shortly after Stone returned to Massachusetts as the first woman in that state to receive a college degree, she became a leader of the women's suffrage movement, lecturing extensively on both suffrage and abolition. In 1848, Stone was hired by William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips as a lecturer and organizer for the Garrisonian Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in Boston.[11] She spoke extemporaneously, never writing down her speeches before or afterward.[12] Garrison and the society were not fond of her mixing women’s rights with abolitionism in her speeches—she was getting paid six dollars a week to speak about the evils of slavery. Samuel Joseph May asked Stone to discontinue mentioning women's rights, but Stone considered carefully and concluded that she must leave the Society, saying "I was a woman before I was an abolitionist. I must speak for the women."[13] May, loath to lose her powerful voice, offered four dollars to speak solely of abolition on weekends, a schedule which would allow her to speak freely of women’s rights during the week. She accepted the compromise.

Stone's public speeches drew controversy for many reasons, not least of which was that she was a woman speaking to audiences filled with both men and women. Those opposed to Stone's public appearances were known to tear down posters announcing her engagements and burn pepper or throw finely ground pepper (as an irritant) around the lecture hall to try and drive out the gathered listeners. Standing before her audience, Stone was the target of various things thrown at her including icy water in winter, an egg[14] and a prayer book.[15]

National Women's Rights Convention

In April 1850, Stone wrote to women in Ohio who were planning a Woman's Rights Convention in Salem, asking them to put pressure on the Ohio legislature to write a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote.

In May, Stone traveled to Boston for an annual meeting with the Anti-Slavery Society. There, she met with eight other women including Harriot Kezia Hunt, Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis,[16] and her close friend Abby Kelley Foster, as well as her compatriots and employers Wendell Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison, to plan a national convention focusing on women's rights. Stone was named secretary,[17] and signed her name to start a list of 89 supporters of the National Women's Rights Convention to be held October 23–24 in Worcester, Massachusetts.[18] The call for action containing the names of 89 supporters was sent to major newspapers, with Stone's name at the top.[17]

Illnesses and deaths

Stone intended to spend the summer in Providence, Rhode Island working with Davis on the details of the gathering. Instead, she barely made it to the convention at all. Shortly after the call was published, Stone received a letter from Hutsonville, Illinois asking her to come nurse her sick brother Luther back to health. His wife Phebe was pregnant and unable to fully tend him, for fear of infecting both mother and the unborn baby. Stone asked Davis to pick up the convention planning reins alone, and set out for Illinois. Stone arrived to see her brother in the late stages of cholera; he died in July. After the funeral, Stone spent some weeks settling his family's finances, then set out for Coy's Hill in Massachusetts in late August with the widowed sister-in-law, traveling slowly with many rest stops. The two women had been on the road for three days when Phebe went into labor prematurely and delivered a stillborn son. Stone arranged another funeral and began to care for Phebe in a small hotel in eastern Illinois. There, she contracted typhoid fever. Stone became delirious with the disease and nearly died, losing and regaining consciousness for 18 days, "alone and in darkness, and there was no one to give me a drop of water."[19] It was early October before she could travel again. She arrived in Massachusetts in time to gain enough strength to attend the opening session.[19]

An influential speech

A framed portrait of Lucy Stone

At the National Women's Rights Convention, October 23–24, 1850, some 900 showed up, men forming the majority, with several newspapers reporting over a thousand attendees by the afternoon of the first day.[20] Delegates came from eleven states, including one delegate from California—a state only a few weeks old.[21] Stone stayed in the background until the final meeting, when she was persuaded to take the stage. She spoke in favor of women's property rights, saying

We want to be something more than the appendages of Society; we want that Woman should be the coequal and help-meet of Man in all the interest and perils and enjoyments of human life. We want that she should attain to the development of her nature and womanhood; we want that when she dies, it may not be written on her gravestone that she was the "relict" of somebody.[22]

Attendee Horace Greeley was so moved by her oratory that he published a favorable account of the proceedings in his New York Tribune. Later, Susan B. Anthony identified Greeley's especially admiring description of Stone's speech as the catalyst for her own involvement in the women's cause.[23] In England a copy of the Tribune article inspired Harriet Taylor to write The Enfranchisement of Women.[24]

A total of ten National Women's Rights Conventions were held, the last in 1860. Stone participated directly in the subsequent conventions held in 1852, 1853, 1854, 1855, 1856 and 1858. Further conventions were stopped by the onset of the Civil War, and then were replaced by meetings hosted by the new Woman's National Loyal League starting in 1863.[25]


Church and religion

Stone was expelled in 1851 from the West Brookfield congregation she had long attended for being "engaged in a course of life evidently inconsistent with her covenant engagements to this church."[26] Her lectures were seen as anti-clerical since nearly all of the Congregationalist churches in the North continued to refuse to take a stand on the question of slavery. Some were calling Stone an atheist but it was her absolute faith that the Bible held better things for women that drove her to learn Greek and Hebrew.[27] As a schoolgirl, she had been moved by hearing Unitarian clergyman Robert Collyer lecture.[28] Cast out now by the Congregationalists, Stone joined a Unitarian church.[29]

Clothing reform

An engraving of Lucy Stone wearing bloomers was published in 1853.

In the summer of 1852, Stone went to Seneca Falls, New York to meet at the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and help draw up the charter for a proposed "People's College". Horace Greeley was there, and Stone met Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Amelia Bloomer for the first time. Stone admired Bloomer's trousered dress that she had been advocating since 1850 as offering greater freedom of movement and being more hygienic. The costume allowed women to work more freely, especially to carry things up stairways rather than using both hands to lift their dresses. Back home, Stone bought black silk for simple pantaloons and arranged for the tailoring of her own Bloomer dress, scorning any feminine adornment such as lace.

Leading abolitionists, upon seeing Stone in her bloomers, viewed her style of dress as a detriment and distraction to the anti-slavery cause. They were divided about whether to permit her to wear it. Wendell Phillips came to her defense and Stone was given freedom of dress. Stone also cut her hair short in a straight bob at this time.[30] Even so, Brown invited her friend to come speak at her church in South Butler, Wayne County, New York with the assurance to Stone that the congregation was well aware "that you wear bloomers and are an 'infidel.'"[31]

Wearing bloomers was for Stone a trying experience. Men and boys followed her in the street and settled next to her when she sat, insulting her and making rude jests. Stone said she had never known more physical comfort or mental discomfort than when she put on bloomers.[32]

After a number of women's rights organizers began abandoning their bloomers and returning to long skirts in 1853, Stone and a few others held out. Stone was reported speaking in New York City wearing bloomers in January 1854.[33] Speaking at a convention in Albany in February 1854, Stone relented and brought both bloomers and long skirts, choosing to wear long skirts in public. Susan Anthony chided her and stuck by her conviction, but a few months later gave them up as well. Stone was reported again in bloomers at the October 1854 National Women's Rights Convention held in Philadelphia, but didn't wear them to subsequent speaking engagements.[34] The unusual style had been too much of a distraction for audiences to concentrate on the important words being spoken.[35]

Temperance movement

Stone was an advocate of moderation, or "temperance", insofar as the drinking of alcohol by men afflicted women who were abused by them. Stone did not speak to ban alcoholic consumption; she argued in favor of the right of a woman to file for divorce if her husband was a drunkard. In this, Stone was more radical than Susan Anthony who proposed only a legal separation between an alcoholic man and his wife and children, to allow for the possibility of the husband's redemption and recovery. Stone also argued for property rights for women so that a man could not misuse the fruits of his wife's toil. She stated "If a woman earned a dollar by scrubbing, her husband had a right to take the dollar and go and get drunk with it and beat her afterwards. It was his dollar."[36] Women in the temperance movement counted Stone in their camp, though many were in favor of a total ban on the casual consumption of alcohol. Stanton and Anthony were very interested in alcohol reform, and Stone's great friend "Nettie" Brown, newly appointed pastor in the spring of 1853, was preaching against alcohol.

World's Temperance Convention

In April, 1853 a call went out, printed in Greeley's Tribune, from a committee of temperance-minded men including Neal S. Dow inviting "the friends of Temperance in each State, and in Canada"[37] to come to a meeting in New York City to plan for a "World's Temperance Convention" which was to take place during the New York World's Fair later that year. Brown wrote to Stone enjoining her participation, and the two traveled to the meeting on May 12, 1853. A sizable crowd swelled the lecture hall of the Brick Church, including ten or twelve women.[38] Susan Anthony and Abby Kelley Foster were among those sent by women's temperance societies. Amos C. Barstow, mayor of Providence, was named chairman of the meeting. A motion was made for "all the gentlemen present" to submit their credentials as delegates. Doctor Russell Thacher Trall of New York noted that there were delegates present from the Women's State Temperance Society and moved that the word "ladies" be inserted in the motion, which then carried. All the male and female delegates handed forward their credentials, and a number of men, including Reverend Thomas Wentworth Higginson, were appointed to the Business Committee. Higginson rose to speak, saying that, since women were now properly serving as delegates, they should be represented on the Committee. He moved that Susan B. Anthony be so admitted. From that point onward, "a scene ensued which beggars description", as Stone later wrote for The Liberator.[39] Various prominent women and men rose to speak in favor of having women on the Business Committee, but many were shouted down by men in the audience who did not want to hear them. Others spoke against including the women, and when a Mr. Thompson of Massachusetts proposed that Lucy Stone be named to the same committee, Chairman Barstow threatened to leave his post. Higginson countered by asking that his name be struck from the roll, and invited all present who were sympathetic to withdraw and meet instead at Dr. Trall's Water Cure Institute at 2 p.m. The supporters of women's participation in temperance planning then left the lecture hall, and Barstow made a remark about "women in breeches" being a disgrace to their sex.[37]

Whole World's Temperance Convention

At Trall's, some 50 delegates from over 12 states listened to speeches for three hours, including one made by Stone. They decided to hold the "Whole World's Temperance Convention" in September, 1853,[40] the same month that the other meeting was planned, determining that the other event hosted by the male-only delegates would be referred to as the "Half World's" convention.[41]

Shouted down

Certain leaders of the anti-woman party of temperance activists declared that the Whole World's Temperance Convention was not necessary—it need not take place—women were to be allowed to take part in their event. Reverend Antoinette Brown went to test this statement; she held delegate credentials from two temperance groups, and intended to ask that her credentials be accepted at which point she wanted to take the floor, briefly thank the body for now accepting women, and withdraw back to her pro-woman friends. Her credentials passed muster and she came to the platform to speak her thanks. Men in the audience shouted non-stop interruptions such that her simple speech that would have taken some three minutes was not completed in three days of trying. In his New York Tribune, Horace Greeley wrote scathingly of the outrage.[42]

More such fireworks were expected at the Woman's Rights Convention which followed. Lucy Stone organized and promoted it, and was to speak at the Broadway Tabernacle, along with a number of other activist leaders. Three thousand people paid twelve and a half cents to enter; a standing room crowd. Troublemakers in rowdy groups shouted and bellowed, and police attempted to identify and remove the ringleaders. No speech was being heard, and Chair Lucretia Mott was asked by other leaders to adjourn the meeting. She refused, saying it would end at the planned time and no earlier. Stone then stepped to the platform and the crowd grew silent while she spoke. Stone began by praising the domestic qualities of women, disarming her critics, and continued with a description of women who had entered professions previously held only by men.[43] After her speech the crowd resumed its howling interruptions, and no further presentation was heard.[44]

Courtship and headache

Henry Browne "Harry" Blackwell's first sight of Stone was in 1851 from the gallery of the Massachusetts legislature as Stone addressed that body in support of an amendment to the state constitution which proposed full civil rights to women. Harry Blackwell, an abolitionist from a reform-minded family in Cincinnati, Ohio,[45] saw Stone speak on further occasions and wrote of her, saying "I decidedly prefer her to any lady I have met, always excepting the Bloomer costume which I don't like practically, tho theoretically I believe in it with my whole soul—It is quite doubtful whether I shall be able to succeed in again meeting her, as she is travelling around—having been born locomotive, I believe."[46] Blackwell gained an introduction to Stone through his late father's friend William Lloyd Garrison, proposing marriage to her within an hour of their first meeting. Blackwell was soundly refused, but he began an irresistible two-year courtship with Stone.

Southern success

In October 1853, following the National Women's Rights Convention held in Cleveland, Ohio, Blackwell arranged for Stone a series of speaking engagements in the South during which she was invited to stay in Walnut Hills, Cincinnati with the Blackwell family. Harry Blackwell's parents accepted Stone warmly into their home, treating her as a daughter. The Blackwell family thought highly of her spirited oratory against slavery.[47] Her tour through the South was a financial success, with audiences of 2,000–3,000 packing the halls to see the "Yankee abolitionist in bloomers".[48] From Louisville, Kentucky, Stone wrote to Blackwell "I am holding meetings here which are wonderfully successful. It would not be strange if this slave state should give political and legal equality to its white women sooner even than Massachusetts."[49] Stone earned between $500 and $1,000 a week; she used a portion of the money to print speeches and circulate them widely. Stone sent much of the remaining money to Blackwell for him to invest as he saw fit. Blackwell, already deep in debt from poor real estate investments, bought for her over 7,400 acres of land in Wisconsin and Illinois, convinced that a major railroad line would pass through it. Rails were laid elsewhere, and the land would prove "a heavy load to carry."[50]

Differences with Douglass

In his newspaper, Frederick Douglass printed a rebuke of Stone's free combination of women's rights and abolitionism, saying that she was diminishing the focus and power of the anti-slavery movement.[51] Douglass later found Stone at fault for speaking at a whites-only Philadelphia lecture hall, but Stone insisted that she had replaced her planned speech that day with an appeal to the audience to boycott the facility. It took years before the two were reconciled.[52]

Financial dealings

Stone continued to refuse Blackwell's proposals of marriage, but she kept giving him large sums gained from subsequent speaking engagements; sometimes more money in a week than he had made in the previous four years. Stone considered him the more skilled in financial dealings, though little proof was in evidence. In February 1854, she began to suffer from debilitating headaches of the same type she had experienced at Oberlin.[53] Her resolve never to marry was giving way under Blackwell's assurances that their union would be one of equals. Stone wrote of marriage as death, as a "suffocating sense of the want of that absolute freedom which I now possess."[54] Her headaches grew in strength such that she ceased touring and lecturing, retreating instead to the old family home at Coy's Hill where she continued to correspond with Blackwell by letter. She spoke at a convention in October 1854, but no relief came from headache.[55]

Marriage Protest

In late 1854, Stone agreed to marry. The two set the date for May 1, 1855, and Stone began again to book lectures,[56] including an appearance in Toronto before the Parliament of Canada in support of a proposed married woman's property law.[57] In the months leading up to their wedding, Blackwell wrote a letter to Stone saying "I want to make a protest, distinct and emphatic, against the laws of marriage. I wish, as a husband, to renounce all the privileges which the law confers on me, which are not strictly mutual, and I intend to do so."[58] Inspired by prior wedding statements made by John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor Mill in 1851, and by Theodore Dwight Weld and Angelina Grimké in 1838,[59] the two wrote up a tract they called "Marriage Protest" and printed a number of copies to hand out at their wedding. To begin the ceremony, they stood up together and read the Protest, after which the usual marriage service was officiated by Reverend Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who approved with "hearty concurrence".[60] In part, the Protest read:[61]

...We protest especially against the laws which give to the husband:
1. The custody of the wife's person.
2. The exclusive control and guardianship of their children...

Higginson wrote a description of the ceremony and forwarded a copy of the Marriage Protest to the Worcester Spy which ran the piece. William Lloyd Garrison's paper The Liberator reprinted the item, adding "We are very sorry (as will be a host of others) to lose Lucy Stone, and certainly no less glad to gain Lucy Blackwell."[62] Newspapers across the country picked up the story and published the full text of the Marriage Protest.[59] Many poked fun at the union; the New Orleans Daily Delta toyed with the likely failure of the new couple to find a willing third party to act as arbitrator when the two equals quarreled.[63]

Claiming her name

Lucy Stone began using her maiden name again after 14 months of marriage.

Stone did not immediately insist on keeping her maiden name. In the wedding card and subsequent announcements, Stone represented herself as "Lucy Stone Blackwell". Blackwell wrote to her in the summer of 1855, saying "Lucy Stone Blackwell is more independent in her pecuniary position than was Lucy Stone."[64] In August 1855, she was referred to as "Mrs. Blackwell" in the minutes of the annual Woman's Rights Convention at Saratoga, New York, with the report that Antoinette Brown introduced her to the assemblage as Lucy Stone Blackwell. (Brown herself married Samuel Charles Blackwell on January 24, 1856, becoming Stone's sister-in-law in the process, and taking the name Antoinette Brown Blackwell.[65]) Stone was married more than a year when, in July 1856, she firmly requested of Susan Anthony that for the annual convention her name be given simply as "Lucy Stone".[66] Anthony did as asked, approving of Stone's decision, but Stone's name still appeared on one convention call as Blackwell.[66] Stone wrote an angry and emotional letter to Anthony and determined to be known solely as Lucy Stone henceforward. Later, that autumn, she wrote that

A wife should no more take her husband's name than he should hers.[66]

Others were not as receptive to the decision. Social propriety required certain rules of the day to be followed, and Stone was often referred to in print as "Mrs. Henry Blackwell" or Lucy Stone Blackwell. News articles frequently used the name Lucy Stone Blackwell, even one as late as 1909 which quoted her husband.[67]

Regarding divorce

Before her own marriage, Stone felt that women should be allowed to divorce drunken husbands, to formally end a "loveless marriage" so that "a true love may grow up in the soul of the injured one from the full enjoyment of which no legal bond had a right to keep her[68] ...Whatever is pure and holy, not only has a right to be, but it has a right also to be recognized, and further, I think it has no right not to be recognized."[69] Stone's friends often felt differently about the issue; "Nette" Brown wrote to Stone in 1853 that she was not ready to accept the idea, even if both parties wanted divorce.[69] Stanton was less inclined to clerical orthodoxy; she was very much in favor of giving women the right to divorce,[70] eventually coming to the view that the reform of marriage laws was more important than women's voting rights.[68]

In the process of planning for women's rights conventions, Stone worked to remove from any proposed platform the formal advocacy of divorce, as Stanton wanted. Stone wished to keep the subject separate, to prevent the appearance of moral laxity.[43] She pushed "for the right of woman to the control of her own person as a moral, intelligent, accountable being."[43] Other rights were certain to fall into place after women were given control of their own bodies. Years later, Stone's position on divorce would change.

Motherhood and taxes

A studio portrait of Stone and baby Alice taken in Boston, 1858

Stone and Blackwell set up house in Orange, New Jersey, and Stone bore her first child in September 1857: Alice Stone Blackwell. Blackwell attended the birth, but both before and afterward was often away on business, leaving Stone alone to raise the child. When the infant was only a few months old, Stone protested a tax assessed on her property, arguing since she was not able to vote, that this was "taxation without representation". The state of New Jersey sent a constable to her home on January 18, 1858 and some of her furniture was taken outside and auctioned off, starting with a marble table and two steel-plate portraits, one of William Lloyd Garrison and the other of Governor Salmon P. Chase. A sympathetic neighbor bought these three items for $10.50 and returned them to Stone. Enough was realized from the brief sale to meet the tax requirement.[71][72] Publicity from the refusal to pay taxes served to highlight the cause for women's rights; Stone made no further trouble with tax officials. Later stories about Stone's feminine tax resistance involved tales of a much grander auction that included sentimental items such as a baby cradle and carriage,[67] and even the whole house.[73]

For the next six years, Stone passed the suffragist baton to Susan Anthony in order to stay at home to raise her daughter. She wrote letters to friends and political figures in support of the causes she had been actively promoting. She complained to friends of gaining weight and becoming matronly.[74] In the summer of 1859 Stone bore a son prematurely, but the child immediately died.[75]


During the Civil War, Stone joined with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Martha Coffin Wright, Amy Post, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, Ernestine Rose, and Angelina Grimké Weld to form the Woman's National Loyal League in 1863. The group held a convention in New York City, and resolved to fight for full emancipation and enfranchisement of African Americans. In 1864, the organization gathered 400,000 signatures to petition the United States Congress, significantly assisting in the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery.[25] Once Reconstruction began, Stone helped form the American Equal Rights Association (AERA). AERA's main goal was to achieve equal voting rights for people of either gender and any race.[76]

During the May, 1869 AERA conference, a division arose between the great majority[77] of participants such as Stone who wanted to voice support for the proposed fifteenth amendment which would grant suffrage to African-American men, and a vocal minority who opposed any amendment to voting rights which would not provide universal suffrage. The conflict led to the adoption of a muted resolution in favor of the fifteenth amendment which expressed disappointment that Congress had not offered the same privilege to women. The AERA could not hold together from the internal strife between these two positions. Heading the minority, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the female-only National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) to focus on women gaining voting rights. In Cleveland on November 24, Stone, along with her husband and Julia Ward Howe, founded the more moderate American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), that admitted both men and women. Beyond membership, the groups differed only on minor points of policy.[78]

Divorce and "free love"

In 1870, at the twentieth anniversary celebration of the first National Women's Rights Convention in Worcester, Stanton spoke for three hours rallying the crowd for women's right to divorce. By then, Stone's position on the matter had shifted significantly. Personal differences between Stone and Stanton came to the fore on the issue, with Stone writing "We believe in marriage for life, and deprecate all this loose, pestiferous talk in favor of easy divorce."[68] Stone made it clear that those wishing for "free divorce" were not associated with Stone's organization AWSA, headed at that time by Reverend Henry Ward Beecher.[68] Stone wrote against 'free love:' "Be not deceived—free love means free lust."[68]

This editorial position would come back to haunt Stone. Also in 1870, Elizabeth Roberts Tilton told her husband Theodore Tilton that she had been carrying on an adulterous relation with his good friend Henry Ward Beecher. Theodore Tilton published an editorial saying that Beecher "has at a most unseemly time of life been detected in improper intimacies with certain ladies of his congregation."[79] Tilton also informed Stanton about the alleged affair, and Stanton passed the information to Victoria Woodhull. Woodhull, a free love advocate, printed innuendo about Beecher, and began to woo Tilton, convincing him to write a book of her life story from imaginative material that she supplied.[80] In 1871, Stone wrote to a friend "my one wish in regard to Mrs. Woodhull is, that [neither] she nor her ideas, may be so much as heard of at our meeting."[81] Woodhull's self-serving activities were attracting disapproval from both centrist AWSA and radical NSWA. To divert criticism from herself, Woodhull published a denunciation of Beecher in 1872 saying that he practiced free love in private while speaking out against it from the pulpit. This caused a sensation in the press, and resulted in an inconclusive legal suit and a subsequent formal inquiry lasting well into 1875. The furor over adultery and the friction between various camps of women's rights activists took focus away from legitimate political aims. Harry Blackwell wrote to Stone from Michigan where he was working toward putting woman suffrage into the state constitution, saying "This Beecher-Tilton affair is playing the deuce with [woman suffrage] in Michigan. No chance of success this year I fancy."[82]

Voting rights

Stone and Blackwell moved to Pope's Hill in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1870, relocating from New Jersey to organize the New England Woman Suffrage Association. Many of the town's women had been active in the Dorchester Female Anti-Slavery Society and, by 1870, a number of local women were suffragettes. At the same time, Stone founded the Woman's Journal, a Boston publication voicing the concerns of the American Woman Suffrage Association. Stone continued to edit the journal for the rest of her life, assisted by her husband and their daughter.

"The Colorado Lesson"

Lucy Stone in middle age

In 1877, Stone was asked by Rachel Foster Avery to come assist Colorado activists in the organization of a popular referendum campaign with the aim of gaining suffrage for Colorado women. Together, Stone and Blackwell worked the northern half of the state in late summer, while Susan Anthony traveled the less-promising rough-and-tumble southern half. Patchwork and scattered support was reported by activists, with some areas more receptive. Latino voters proved largely uninterested in voting reform; some of that resistance was blamed on the extreme opposition to the measure by the Roman Catholic bishop of Colorado. All but a handful of politicians in Colorado ignored the measure, or actively fought it. Stone concentrated on convincing Denver voters during the October ballot, but the measure lost heavily, with 68% voting against it. Married, working men showed the greatest support, and young, single men the least. Blackwell called it "The Colorado Lesson", writing that "Woman suffrage can never be carried by a popular vote, without a political party behind it."[83]

School board vote

In 1879, after a petition by suffragists across the state, Massachusetts women were given strictly delimited voting rights: a woman who could prove the same qualifications as a male voter was allowed to cast her vote for members of the school board. Stone applied to the voting board in Boston but was required to sign her husband's surname as her own. She refused, and never participated in that vote.[29]

Later life

In 1887, eighteen years after the rift formed in the American women's rights movement, Stone proposed a merger of the two groups. Plans were drawn up, and, at their annual meetings, propositions were heard and voted on, then passed to the other group for evaluation. By 1890, the organizations resolved their differences and merged to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Stone was too weak with heart problems and respiratory illness[84] to attend its first convention, but was elected to chair the executive committee.[85]

During the 1892 NAWSA convention, Stone called for more than merely voting rights for women. She argued that women should work to pass laws for equality in property rights between the sexes. Stone demanded an eradication of coverture, the folding of a wife's property into that of her husband.[86]

Stone went to Chicago in May, 1893 and gave her last public speeches at the NAWSA convention in June at the World's Columbian Exposition where she saw a strong international involvement in women's congresses. The focus was on state referenda under consideration in New York and Nebraska.[87] Stone presented a speech she had prepared entitled "The Progress of Fifty Years" wherein she described the milestones of change, and said "I think, with never-ending gratitude, that the young women of today do not and can never know at what price their right to free speech and to speak at all in public has been earned."[36]

A statue of Stone is part of the Boston Women's Memorial on Commonwealth Ave in Boston

Those who knew Stone well thought her voice was lacking strength. In August when her husband Harry wanted to go to the Exposition, she was too weak to accompany him. Stone was diagnosed as suffering from advanced stomach cancer in September. She wrote final letters to friends and relatives. Having "prepared for death with serenity and an unwavering concern for the women's cause," Lucy Stone passed away on October 18, 1893 at the age of 75. At her funeral on October 21, 1,100 people crowded the church, and hundreds more stood silently outside.[88] Mourners lined the streets for a sight of the funeral procession, and front-page banner headlines ran in news accounts. Stone's death was the most widely reported of any American woman's up to that time.[77]

According to her wishes, her body was cremated, making her the first person cremated in Massachusetts, though a wait of over two months was undertaken while the crematorium at Forest Hills Cemetery could be completed. Stone's remains are inurned at Forest Hills; a chapel there is named after her.


Stone's portrait was used in Boston on a political button between 1900 and 1920.

Lucy Stone's refusal to take her husband's name, as an assertion of her own rights, was controversial then, and is largely what she is remembered for today. Women who continue to use their birth name after marriage are still occasionally known as "Lucy Stoners" in the United States.[89] In 1921, the Lucy Stone League was founded in New York City. It was re-instituted in 1997.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Matilda Joslyn Gage and Ida Husted Harper began in 1887 to write the History of Woman Suffrage. They planned for one volume but finished four before the death of Anthony in 1906, and two more afterward. The first three volumes chronicled the beginnings of the women's rights movement, including the years that Stone was active. Because of differences between Stone and Stanton that had been highlighted in the schism between NWSA and AWSA,[86] Stone's place in history was marginalized in the work. The text was used as the standard scholarly resource for much of the 20th century, causing Stone's contribution to be overlooked in many histories of women's causes.[77]

The United States Postal Service honored Stone by issuing this 50-cent stamp on August 13, 1968, the 150th anniversary of her birth.

In 1968, the U.S. Postal Service honored Lucy Stone with a 50 cent postage stamp in the "Prominent Americans" series. The image was adapted from a photograph included in Alice Stone Blackwell's biography of Stone.[90]

In 2000, Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls included a song entitled Lucystoners on her first solo recording, Stag.[91]

An administration and classroom building on Livingston Campus at Rutgers University in New Jersey is named for Lucy Stone.

Lucy Stone Park is located in Warren, Massachusetts, along the Quaboag River.


"I expect to plead not for the slave only, but for suffering humanity everywhere. Especially do I mean to labor for the elevation of my sex." (1847)

"In education, in marriage, in religion, in everything, disappointment is the lot of women. It shall be the business of my life to deepen this disappointment in every woman's heart until she bows down to it no longer." (1855)

See also



  1. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 81.
  2. ^ Blackwell, 1930, p. 94.
  3. ^ Schenken, 1999, p. 644.
  4. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 46.
  5. ^ Oberlin College. Electronic Oberlin Group. Oberlin: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow... Chapter 10. Oberlin Women. Retrieved March 16, 2009.
  6. ^ Blackwell, 1930, p. 60.
  7. ^ Spender, 1982, p. 350.
  8. ^ Spender, 1982, p. 351.
  9. ^ Spender, 1982, p. 351–352.
  10. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 56.
  11. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 69.
  12. ^ Hays, 1961, pp. 69–70.
  13. ^ Hays, 1961, pp. 74–75.
  14. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 83.
  15. ^ Schenken, 1999, pp. 644–645.
  16. ^ McMillen, 2008, p. 106.
  17. ^ a b Kerr, 1995, p. 58.
  18. ^ May, 1961, p. 84.
  19. ^ a b Kerr, 1995, p. 59.
  20. ^ McMillen, 2008. p. 108.
  21. ^ American National Biography. Stone, Lucy. Retrieved March 10, 2009.
  22. ^ Kerr, 1995, p. 60.
  23. ^ May, 1961, p. 88.
  24. ^ A Soul as Free as the Air: About Lucy Stone. Retrieved on March 18, 2009; Sunshine for Women. Book Summaries. The Enfranchisement of Women (1851), Harriet Taylor Mill. Retrieved on March 18, 2009.
  25. ^ a b National Park Service. Women's Rights. More Women's Rights Conventions. Retrieved on April 1, 2009.
  26. ^ Hays, 1961, pp. 73–74.
  27. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 53.
  28. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 245.
  29. ^ a b Ohio History Central. Lucy Stone. Retrieved March 10, 2009.
  30. ^ May, 1961, p. 94.
  31. ^ Kerr, 1995, p. 63.
  32. ^ May, 1961, p. 95.
  33. ^ New York Times. January 25, 1854. Lecture of Miss Lucy Stone. Retrieved on March 18, 2009.
  34. ^ Stanton et al, 1881
  35. ^ Fischer, 2001, pp. 103–105.
  36. ^ a b Stone, Lucy (1893). "The Progress of Fifty Years". Congress of Women. Retrieved on 2009-03-22. 
  37. ^ a b "Preface to the Whole World's Temperance Convention". The E Pluribus Unum Project. Assumption College. 1853. Retrieved on 2009-03-22. 
  38. ^ "World's Temperance Convention". New York Times. May 13, 1853. Retrieved on 2009-03-22. 
  39. ^ Blackwell, 1930, p. 115.
  40. ^ "World's Temperance Convention: Afternoon Session of Secession Delegates". New York Times. May 13, 1853. Retrieved on 2009-03-22. 
  41. ^ Blackwell, 1930, p. 116.
  42. ^ Blackwell, 1930, pp. 118–120.
  43. ^ a b c Kerr, 1995, p. 72.
  44. ^ Blackwell, 1930, p. 121.
  45. ^ Mass Moments. On This Day... Woman's Rights Pioneer Lucy Stone Born August 13, 1818. Retrieved March 10, 2009.
  46. ^ Kerr, 1995, p. 65.
  47. ^ Blackwell, 1930, pp 143–145.
  48. ^ Kerr, 1995, p. 73.
  49. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 109.
  50. ^ Kerr, 1995, pp. 74–75.
  51. ^ Kerr, 1995, pp. 73–74.
  52. ^ Kerr, 1995, pp. 75–76.
  53. ^ Kerr, 1995, p. 76.
  54. ^ Kerr, 1995, p. 77.
  55. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 138.
  56. ^ Kerr, 1995, p. 82.
  57. ^ Kerr, 1995, p. 83.
  58. ^ Blackwell, 1930, p 161.
  59. ^ a b Blackwell, 1930, p xii.
  60. ^ Blackwell, 1930, p 166.
  61. ^ Blackwell, 1930, pp 166–168.
  62. ^ Project Gutenberg. E-text. Anthony, Susan B. History of Woman Suffrage, Volume I. Retrieved on March 18, 2009.
  63. ^ New Orleans Daily Delta. May 11, 1855. Amazonian Marriage. Retrieved on March 18, 2009.
  64. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 137–138.
  65. ^ Lasser, 1987, p. 147.
  66. ^ a b c Hays, 1961, p. 131.
  67. ^ a b "Jersey Women Voted in 1776. Used Ballot Till 1807, When Democrats Abolished It, H. B. Blackwell Says.". New York Times. March 7, 1909. Retrieved on 2007-06-21. 
  68. ^ a b c d e Kerr, 1995, p. 156.
  69. ^ a b Hays, 1961, p. 169.
  70. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 168.
  71. ^ "Lucy Stone and the Collector--Sale of Gorrit Smith and Gov. Chase for Taxes.". New York Times. January 25, 1858. Retrieved on 2009-03-17. 
  72. ^ Hays, 1961, pp. 154–155.
  73. ^ "Lucy Stone Day Observed by 1,000; Suffragists Erect Tablet to the Memory of Pioneer Fighter for Votes for Women. Gather in East Orange In 150 Automobiles, Visit House Sold in 1858 Because She Would Pay No Taxes.". New York Times. August 14, 1915. Retrieved on 2009-03-17. 
  74. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 157.
  75. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 159.
  76. ^ Schenken, 1999, p. 645.
  77. ^ a b c The Trustees of Reservations. Andrea Moore Kerr, Ph.D., Lucy Stone Home Site: A Women's History Landmark. Retrieved on March 18, 2009.
  78. ^ A Celebration of Women Writers. Laura E. Richards and Maud Howe Elliott. Julia Ward Howe, Volume I, Chapter I Retrieved on March 18, 2009.
  79. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 232.
  80. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 233.
  81. ^ Kerr, 1995, p. 168.
  82. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 235.
  83. ^ Mead, 2004, pp. 56–59.
  84. ^ Mani, 2007, p. 113.
  85. ^ Schenken, 1999, p. 646.
  86. ^ a b Mani, 2007, p. 115.
  87. ^ Mead, 2004, pp. 63–64.
  88. ^ Hays, 1961, p. 306.
  89. ^ Spender, 1982, p. 348.
  90. ^ Arago: People, Postage & The Post. 50-cent Stone. Retrieved March 12, 2009.
  91. ^ Daemon Records. Amy Ray: Stag, Lucystoners. Retrieved March 10, 2009.


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