Born In: West Brookfield, Massachusetts
Died On: October 18, 1893
Career: Abolitionist, Suffragist, Women's rights activist
A pronounced abolitionist and a renowned reformer of her times, Lucy Stone pioneered a radical movement that not only elevated women’s status and say in the society, but also played an upper hand in the abolition of slavery. Better feted as a suffragist and an abolitionist in the annals of American history, Lucy Stone was one of the first American women to champion against the lop-sided suffrage rights and also voice protest against all forms of social injustice and atrocities against women. Also far-famed for being one of the first women in the United States for retaining her maiden name after marriage, Lucy Stone has to her name quite an unceasing list of feats and deeds. A noted crusader of the nineteenth century Lucy spent all her life fighting for various causes. She had a sad childhood and had to struggle her way out of the dominating clenches of her father, something that challenged her feelings of a happy family and shaped her conviction for women rights and equality.
Lucy Stone was born on August 13, 1818 in West Brookfield, Massachusetts to father Francis Stone and mother Hannah Matthews, who inspired in her both their abolitionist commitment and their Congregationalist faith. Eighth of the nine children in the Stone household, childhood wasn’t any happy episode for young Lucy who grew up watching her father manage their modest family with an ‘iron hand’, while her mother was literally throttled to the role of a dummy. Born to a farmer, Lucy grew up to oblige to her agrarian status, but couldn’t curb her inquisitive disposition that forever wondered and questioned the wrongs around her. She was a bright young girl, but was granted little formal education during her childhood. Like her two brothers, she too wanted to pursue college, but was scoffed at and refrained by her father who opinioned that education was of little help to a girl, when it came to dabbling with a domesticated life. Though she was quick to imbibe her parent’s antislavery allegiance, a dispute among the members of the Congregationalist church forced her to join Unitarian Universalist church later in her life.
After Lucy’s father turned down her request to support her education, young Lucy resolved to pull off her education expense on her own. At the age of 16, she took up the job of a teacher in a neighborhood school to pump up the family income and also support her academic aspirations. In the year 1838, she resigned from her life of a teacher and signed up in Mary Lyon's Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley, Massachusetts. There she mastered logic, algebra, literature, geography, manners, and more. By the age of 25, Lucy had done decent savings to fund her first year at Oberlin College in Ohio. She graduated in the year 1847. Soon after her graduation, Lucy earned her first break to address a public forum in her brother’s Congregational Church, in Gardner, Massachusetts and that marked the offset of a revolutionizing phase of her life.
Lucy’s first big break that led her closer to her calling came when she was appointed as a lecturer and organizer by the Garrisonian Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. There she got the ground to represent her concerns on women rights and voice her protest against slavery of blacks. However, it wasn’t until 1863 that Lucy conjointly with other concerned enthusiasts came together to form the first Woman’s National Loyal League that fought for the liberation and enfranchisement of African Americans. Soon after this, Lucy Stone went on to find another organization called American Equal Rights Association or AERA that demanded equal voting rights for all, irrespective of sex and race.
Much eulogized for her devout delivering on equal rights and slavery, she used American Anti-Slavery Society as her forum for her public stirrings. One of the most popular orators of the 19th century America, Lucy earned a national repute for her undying crusades on emancipation and liberation. After the end of the Civil War and with the inclusion of the Fourteenth Amendment that granted suffrage rights to African-American men, Lucy Stone together with Henry Blackwell continued the crusade on women’s rights and equality. Lucy Stone also found The Women's Journal, a weekly newspaper that supported her suffrage movement and was edited by her along with Henry Blackwell.
As A Suffragist & Abolitionist
Lucy Stone’s life was an unending crusade for the status of American women who were a victim of both legal discrimination and social restriction. She was born in a time when women were denied all political rights. They were refused suffrage, public office and were treated as legal properties of their husbands. They were not allowed to work or earn and were subjected to severe abuse from their husbands. They were also barred from education and the right to address public forums. Like all other women of her times, Lucy was treated no better than a slave, something that inspired her to take up the cause of abolition along with women’s rights. Because of her strong stand on the cause, she got the chance to address a congregation in Gardner.
Ironically, the address turned out to be quite a unique situation for Lucy as she not only made it to the public forum to address a mixed bag of audience on a controversial topic, she also had the chance to deliver it inside an American Protestant church that somehow didn’t take the matter of women liberation very kindly. After that, Lucy almost became a frequent face in the podium, constantly addressing a large forum and championing the cause of slavery and the subservient position of women in American society. In 1850, she initiated the first national women’s rights convention held in Worcester and set an example for annual meetings. After the Worcester convention, Lucy Stone continued to lead the women’s rights movement and became involved in with many local and national women’s rights organizations. She also drafted bills and attended legislative hearings in the interest of improving the status of American women.
Lucy was married to Henry Blackwell, a fellow abolitionist and a friend. Henry and Lucy first met in 1853. It is said that Henry, who shared Lucy’s concern for women’s rights and slavery, was totally bowled over when he heard her address the Massachusetts legislature in 1851. It was through a family friend that Henry was introduced to Lucy and after an hour of meeting he proposed marriage to her, but Lucy refused. Nevertheless, after two-years of courtship, Lucy and Henry exchanged vows on May 1, 1855. Lucy was big on equality and insisted on retaining her maiden name, a revolutionizing decision that made her the first women in American history to retain her original name after marriage.
Lucy Stone died in 1893 at the age of 75 of cancer in Boston. Her last words were "Make the world better." Her historic funeral was conducted in the Church of the Disciples in Dorchester and was attended by eleven hundred persons as reported by the Christian Register (Unitarian) in November 1893.
Lucy Stone has been lauded for her awe-inspiring feats with regards to woman suffrage and labor rights. She has to her name the Lucy Stone League, which was founded in the New York City by Ruth Hale in 1921. The League was re-instituted in 1997. Lucy Stone also has been granted a space in the chronicles of History of Woman Suffrage, a joint effort of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Matilda Joslyn Gage and Ida Husted Harper. Although her contribution and crusade has been offered a marginalized representation in the book, it nevertheless stands as a timeless account of her undying deeds.
Lucy Stone has also been given a 50 cent postage stamp in the Prominent Americans series by the U.S. Postal Service, to mark her 150th birth anniversary. She was also one of the first six female leaders to have found a place in the wall of honor in the Massachusetts State House. Lucy Stone’s name has been included for an administration and classroom building on Livingston Campus at Rutgers University in New Jersey. There is also a park, a solo song and a bust of Lucy Stone is on display at the Boston Public Library.
1818: Lucy Stone was born in West Brookfield, Massachusetts
1843: Entered Oberlin College and became active in the abolitionist Anti-Slavery Society.
1847: The first Massachusetts woman to graduate from College. Lucy Stone gave her first public speech on the subject of women's rights, entitled The Province of Women, at her brother Bowman Stone's church in Gardner, Massachusetts
1850: Organized the first Woman's Rights Convention
1853: Lucy Stone first met Henry Blackwell
1855: Married Henry Blackwell keeping custody of her own name
1869: An organizer of the American Woman's Suffrage Association
1870: Founded "The Woman's Journal", foremost Suffrage Newspaper of the time.
1893: Lucy Stone died