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Biography Resource Center
"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."
Lucy Stone was born near West Brookfield, Massachusetts, on August 13, 1818. She was the eighth of nine children, and was raised on the family farm. Growing up, she observed how her father controlled the household, but more importantly to Lucy, how her father controlled her mother. And although Lucy was a faster learner and much brighter than her brothers, she was not allowed the education that they were. Finally, fed up with her father's belief in men's dominance over women, Lucy decided to take the issue of her education into her own hands. At the age of 16, she began alternating her own education with being a teacher in order to earn enough money so that she too could continue to learn. She attended
Mount Holyoke Female Seminary
two years after it was founded in 1837 by Mary Lyon, a fellow feminist. In 1843 at the age of 25, Lucy finally had enough money to pay for further education at
in Ohio. Oberlin was the first college that permitted women and African Americans. While in college, Lucy organized one of the first debating societies for women in college. At the time, it wasn't technically allowed by the college, and the meetings were held outside in the woods. For her graduating class of 1847, Lucy was asked to write a speech which was to be delivered by a male student. Even at Oberlin, women weren't allowed to speak publicly, and Lucy refused to write the speech.
Beginning of Stone's Career
A year after graduating, Lucy Stone was hired as an organizer, or agent, of the
American Anti-Slavery Society
. A tremendous public speaker, Stone was asked to travel the country to speak for the society. She mostly gave speeches on the abolition of slavery, but also spoke about women's rights.
William Lloyd Garrison
, a dominant voice in the American Anti-Slavery Society said of Stone, "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 in the spirit of sectarianism in the institution." After causing much controversy in the American Anti-Slavery Society, Stone decided to speak on the abolition of slaves on weekends and charged admission to speak on women's rights on the weekdays. Many people in her audiences disagreed strongly with Stone and often threw Bibles claiming she was violating God's word with her views on women's rights. Stone had heard the same thing from her father, and had decided at a young age to learn Greek and Hebrew since she was sure the Bible was translated wrong. At Oberlin College, Lucy did learn Hebrew and Greek and when she was disrupted in her lectures she would translate from the Bible the roles of men and women for the crowd.
A Family of Firsts in Women's Rights
On a trip to Cincinnati, Lucy Stone met
, a businessman. Henry was
7 years younger than Lucy, and was pro-women's rights and against slavery. After two
"A wife should no more
years of courting,
Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell married
in 1855. Lucy decided to
take her husband's name
keep her maiden name of Stone, and was the first in America to do so. She proudly
than he should hers. My
claimed, "A wife should no more take her husband's name than he should hers. My
name is my identity
name is my identity and must not be lost." Lucy's followers, the women that decided
and must not be lost."
to keep their maiden names after marriage, were called "Lucy Stoners". Henry's sister,
-Lucy Stone (1855)
, became the first woman physician in the United States, and
another sister of Henry's, Emily
Blackwell, followed in her sister's footsteps by also becoming a physician. A brother of the Blackwells, Samuel, married
, a friend of Lucy's from Oberlin College, who went on to be the first ordained woman minister in the United States.
Accomplishments in Stone's Career
During the Civil War, Lucy Stone was inactive in the suffrage movement. Her daughter, Alice Stone Blackwell was born in 1857 and Lucy took a break from her work to focus on being a mother. After the war ended, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were added to the constitution, Lucy rejoined the movement. Stone, along with many other women, were upset about the new amendments to the constitution which explicitly mentioned "male citizens". In 1867, Lucy Stone again went on tour, this time to Kansas and New York, speaking for woman's suffrage.
At this time, women's suffrage split into two main areas. The National Woman Suffrage Association, created by
Susan B. Anthony
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
, was an association that completely opposed the new amendments for the language of "male citizen". Around the same time, Lucy Stone, her husband, and Julia Ward Howe decided that the causes for black and woman suffrage should stick together. In 1869 Lucy Stone formed the American Woman Suffrage Association. Lucy's association mainly petitioned for the right for women to vote along with African Americans. Later, the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association merged into one, creating the
National American Woman Suffrage Association
. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the president, Susan B. Anthony the vice-president, and Lucy Stone was the chairman of executive committee. Lucy Stone helped to create
The Woman's Journal,
and she and Henry Blackwell became the editors in 1873. Stone much preferred being an editor to lecturing. Although she was completely for women's rights, she also enjoyed staying home with her family. Later, her daughter took over the newspaper, and kept it running until 1917. In 1879, women were given the right to vote on school board members in the state of Massachusetts. Lucy, however, was not allowed to vote because she did not hold her
husband's last name,
refused to change it.
The End of a Great Woman
Lucy Stone died of cancer in 1893. She lead an amazing life, and fought for what she thought was right during a period when America was emerging with nationalism. She was one of many women in America at this time that stood up for not only the rights of women, but also for the rights of African Americans. She was raised to think that men had a great dominance over women, but regardless she still believed that it wasn't how God wanted things to be. Voting for women was legalized 27 years after the death of Lucy Stone, and can be partially creditted to this woman's lifelong devotion to the cause. The last thing Lucy Stone said to her daughter before she died was, "Make the world better." That is what many Americans living at the time of Lucy Stone were trying to do, and Lucy was one of the Americans that was successful in her efforts.
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