Lucy Stone -Suffragist and Abolitionist (Updated) 1818-1893, A Woman of Firsts!
Lucy Stone was a woman of firsts. Lucy’s daughter, Alice wrote this opening paragraph[i] in a biography of her mother. It speaks to the nature of the family that produced one avid abolitionist and two determined suffragists.
"Lucy Stone was born August 13, 1818. She was the eighth of nine children. Her mother, a farmer’s wife, had milked eight cows the night before Lucy was born, a sudden shower having called all the men of the family into the hayfield to save the hay. When told of the sex of the new baby, she said sadly, “Oh, Dear! I am sorry it is a girl. A woman’s life is so hard!” No one then could foresee that the little girl just born was destined to make life less hard for all the generations of little girls that were to follow.”
Following are Lucy’s milestones.
First woman in Massachusetts to graduate college, in 1847 at the age of twenty-nine. With no help from anyone Lucy worked nine years to save money needed for college. She graduated from Oberlin, a college renowned for its liberal integration policies for African Americans and women; a school fully integrated by 1880, from admissions to course content to sports.
The first woman to be asked to do the commencement speech at Oberlin in 1847 but was later told a man would read her speech. Oberlin was not completely liberated. Upon learning days later that a man would deliver her address, she refused to participate. In 1883, thirty-six years later Oberlin attempted to right the wrong and asked Lucy to return and give her speech. She complied.
First to protest lower pay for women for the same work.
At first Lucy vowed never to marry since it made women subordinate to their husbands and removed almost all of their rights. However, Henry Browne Blackwell crossed Lucy’s path at the right time. They married and lived together without compromising their beliefs in suffrage, emancipation and equality.
One of the first to speak publicly, along with Angelina Grimke, on any subject but especially slavery and women’s rights.
Lucy and Susan B. Anthony worked closely through the Civil War as abolitionists, but soon after they split over priorities of the movement. Lucy felt passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendment, were needed first, giving freedom, citizenship and voting rights to African Americans. Anthony actually opposed the amendments. She placed suffrage first. Lucy broke off from the National Woman Suffrage Association and formed the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).
First known woman to be paid to speak publicly on abolitionism and women’s rights.
First known to wear pants under her corset framed skirt.
First to marry but kept her maiden name.
First woman to insist on a pre-nuptial agreement.
First to insist women had a right to divorce.
Created and edited, in 1870, the first “Woman’s Journal” a paper that energized the suffrage movement and survived through the 19th Amendment.
Lucy won the right in Massachusetts to vote in local elections. She arrived at the voting booth to choose a candidate for the school committee. She was refused the right to vote unless she registered using her husband’s name. She refused.
Lucy was instrumental in initiating “The First National Woman’s Rights Convention” in Worcester that was the first effort to give equal rights to black woman. This convention was credited with raising feminist issues worldwide and was covered by advocates and reporters from France, England and Germany.
Lucy refused to pay the tax on her home because her name was not properly represented on the tax document. Lucy paraphrased many patriots of the first revolution when she said “. . . women suffer taxation, and yet have no representation, which is not only unjust to one half of the adult population, but is contrary to our theory of government.” Lucy continued organizing protests against taxation without representation.” As a result of non-payment of her taxes all her household belongings were confiscated by the City of Boston.
In death she was still first. By her design she was the first person in Massachusetts to be cremated. If you visit her at Forest Hills Cemetery, to her dismay, look for Lucy Blackwell on her tombstone.
Then and now it would be an honor to be recognized as a “Lucy Stoner.”
Alice carried her mother’s suffrage work forward thirty years until the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution was confirmed in 1920. Three years later at their first eligible national election women could vote for the first Catholic, Al Smith, to run for President of the United States.
Alice’s Aunt, Elizabeth Blackwell, was America’s first educated female physician.
Alice also played a role in the misguided temperance movement.
Blindness late in life curtailed Alice’s research and writing. She died at the age of ninety-two, in 1950.
Alice can also be visited at Forest Hills Cemetery, 95 Forest Hills Avenue, Boston, Ma., 02130.
Forest Hills Cemetery, pioneered the “garden” cemetery in 1848. The cemetery could easily be called a “park”. It is embedded in the “Emerald Necklace” of Boston and certainly worthy of a stop along the way. The cemetery is in the National Register of Historic Places.
You can also pay your respects to one of Lucy Stone’s avid supporters, William Lloyd Garrison, perhaps the most vocal of all abolitionists, Here is our link to our blog on William Lloyd Garrison. www.walkbostonhistory.com/history-blog/william-lloyd-garrison-wlg ). Other notables interned are poet Ann Sexton, playwright Eugene O’Neill and inventor Lewis Edson Waterman.
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