Lucy Stone (August 13, 1818 – October 19, 1893) was a prominent American orator, abolitionist, and suffragist, and a vocal advocate and organizer promoting rights for women. In 1847, Stone became 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 was known for using her maiden name after marriage, as the custom was for women to take their husband's surname.
Stone's organizational activities for the cause of women's rights yielded tangible gains in the difficult political environment of the 19th century. Stone helped initiate the first National Women's Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusettsand she supported and sustained it annually, along with a number of other local, state and regional activist conventions. Stone spoke in front of a number of legislative bodies to promote laws giving more rights to women. She assisted in establishing the Woman's National Loyal League to help pass the Thirteenth Amendment and thereby abolish slavery, after which she helped form the American Woman Suffrage Association, which built support for a woman suffrage Constitutional amendment by winning woman suffrage at the state and local levels.
Stone wrote extensively about a wide range of women's rights, publishing and distributing speeches by herself and others, and convention proceedings. In the long-running and influential Woman's Journal, a weekly periodical that she founded and promoted, Stone aired both her own and differing views about women's rights. Called "the orator", the "morning star" and the "heart and soul" of the women's rights movement, Stone influenced Susan B. Anthony to take up the cause of women's suffrage. 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." Together, Anthony, Stanton, and Stone have been called the 19th-century "triumvirate" of women's suffrage and feminism.
Early life and influences
Lucy Stone was born on August 13, 1818, on her family's farm at Coy's Hill in West Brookfield, Massachusetts. She was the eighth of nine children born to Hannah Matthews and Francis Stone; she grew up with three brothers and three sisters, two siblings having died before her own birth. Another member of the Stone household was Sarah Barr, “Aunt Sally” to the children– a sister of Francis Stone who had been abandoned by her husband and left dependent upon her brother. Although farm life was hard work for all and Francis Stone tightly managed the family resources, Lucy remembered her childhood as one of “opulence,” the farm producing all the food the family wanted and enough extra to trade for the few store-bought goods they needed.
Although Stone recalled that “There was only one will in our family, and that was my father’s,” she described the family government characteristic of her day. Hannah Stone earned a modest income through selling eggs and cheese but was denied her any control over that money, sometimes denied money to purchase things Francis considered trivial. Believing she had a right to her own earnings, Hannah sometimes stole coins from his purse or secretly sold a cheese. As a child, Lucy resented instances of what she saw as her father’s unfair management of the family’s money. But she later came to realize that custom was to blame, and the injustice only demonstrated “the necessity of making custom right, if it must rule.”
From the examples of her mother, Aunt Sally, and a neighbor neglected by her husband and left destitute, Stone early learned that women were at the mercy of their husbands’ good will. When she came across the biblical passage, “and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee,” she was distraught over what appeared to be divine sanction of women’s subjugation, but then reasoned that the injunction applied only to wives. Resolving to “call no man my master,” she determined to keep control over her own life by never marrying, obtaining the highest education she could, and earning her own livelihood.
Teaching at “a woman’s pay”
At age sixteen, Stone began teaching in district schools, as her brothers and sister Rhoda also did. Her beginning pay of $1.00 a day was much lower than that of male teachers, and when she substituted for her brother Bowman one winter, she received less pay than he received. When she protested to the school committee that she had taught all the subjects Bowman had, it replied that they could give her “only a woman’s pay.” Lower pay for women was one of the arguments cited by those promoting the hiring of women as teachers: “To make education universal, it must be at moderate expense, and women can afford to teach for one-half, or even less, the salary which men would ask.” Although Stone’s salary increased along with the size of her schools, until she finally received $16 a month, it was always lower than the male rate.
The “woman question”
In 1836, Stone began reading newspaper reports of a controversy raging throughout Massachusetts that some referred to as the “woman question” – what was woman’s proper role in society; should she assume an active and public role in the reform movements of the day? Developments within that controversy over the next several years shaped her evolving philosophy on women’s rights.
A debate over whether women were entitled to a political voice had begun when many women responded to William Lloyd Garrison’s appeal to circulate antislavery petitions and sent thousands of signatures to Congress only to have them rejected, in part because women had sent them. Women abolitionists responded by holding a convention in New York City to expand their petitioning efforts, and declaring that “as certain rights and duties are common to all moral beings,” they would no longer remain within limits prescribed by “corrupt custom and a perverted application of Scripture.” After sisters Angelina and Sarah Grimke began speaking to audiences of men and women, instead of women-only as was acceptable, a state convention of Congregational ministers issued a Pastoral letter condemning women’s assuming “the place of man as a public reformer” and “itinerat[ing] in the character of public lecturers and teachers.” Stone attended the convention as a spectator, and was so angered by the letter that she determined "if ever [I] had anything to say in public, [I] would say it, and all the more because of that pastoral letter."
Stone read Sarah Grimke’s “Letters on the Province of Woman” (later republished as “Letters on the Equality of the Sexes”), and told a brother they only reinforced her resolve “to call no man master.” She drew from these "Letters" when writing college essays and her later women’s rights lectures.
Having determined to obtain the highest education she could, Stone enrolled at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1839, at the age of 21. But she was so disappointed in Mary Lyons’ intolerance of antislavery and women’s rights that she withdrew after only one term. The very next month she enrolled at Wesleyan Academy (later Wilbraham & Monson Academy), which she found more to her liking: “It was decided by a large majority in our literary society the other day,” she reported to a brother, “that ladies ought to mingle in politics, go to Congress, etc. etc.” Stone read a newspaper account of how a Connecticut antislavery meeting had denied the right to speak or vote to Abby Kelley, recently hired as an antislavery agent to work in that state. Refusing to relinquish her right, Kelley had defiantly raised her hand every time a vote was taken. “I admire the calm and noble bearing of Abby K,” Stone wrote to a brother, “and cannot but wish there were more kindred spirits.”
Three years later, Stone followed Kelley’s example. In 1843, a deacon of her church was recommended for expulsion because of certain antislavery activities, including giving countenance to Abby Kelley’s anti-church views by driving her to lectures and entertaining her at his home. When the first vote was taken, Stone raised her hand in his defense. The minister discounted her vote, saying that, though she was a member of the church, she was not a voting member. Like Kelley, she stubbornly raised her hand for each of the remaining five votes.
After completing a year at coeducational Monson Academy in the summer of 1841, Stone learned that Oberlin Collegiate Institute in Ohio had become the first college in the nation to admit women and had bestowed college degrees on three women. Stone enrolled at Quaboag Seminary in neighboring Warren, where she read Virgil and Sophocles and studied Latin and Greek grammar in preparation for Oberlin’s entrance examinations.
In August 1843, just after she turned 25, Stone traveled by train, steamship, and stagecoach to 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.
In her third year at Oberlin, Stone befriended Antoinette Brown, an abolitionist and suffragist who came to Oberlin in 1845 to study to become a minister. Stone and Brown would eventually marry abolitionist brothers and thus become sisters-in-law.
Equal pay strike
Stone hoped to earn most of her college expenses through teaching in one of the institute’s lower departments. But because of its policy against employing first-year students as teachers, the only work Stone could get other than teaching at district schools during the winter break was house keeping chores through the school’s manual labor program. For this she was paid three cents an hour—less than half what male students received for their work in the program. Among measures taken to reduce her expenses, Stone prepared her own meals in her dormitory room. In 1844 Stone was given a position teaching arithmetic in the Ladies Department, but again received reduced pay because of her sex.
Oberlin’s compensation policies required Stone to do twice the labor a male student had to do to pay the same costs. Stone frequently rose at two o'clock to fit in work and study, and she found her health declining. In February 1845, having decided to submit to the injustice no longer, she asked the Faculty Board for the same pay given two lesser-experienced male colleagues. When her request was denied, she resigned her position. Pleading with the faculty to restore Stone, her former students said they would pay Stone “what was right” if the college would not. Stone had planned to borrow money from her father when funds ran out, but Francis Stone, moved by his daughter’s description of her struggles, promised to provide money when needed. Help from home was not needed, however, because after three months of pressure, the faculty yielded and hired Stone back, paying both her and other women student teachers at the same rate paid male student teachers.
In February 1846 Stone intimated to Abby Kelley Foster that she was thinking of becoming a public speaker, but not until the following summer did a storm of controversy over Foster’s speaking at Oberlin decide the matter for her. Faculty opposition to Foster ignited impassioned discussion of women’s rights among the students, especially of woman’s right to speak in public, which Stone vigorously defended in a joint meeting of the men’s and women’s literary societies. She followed that campus demonstration by making her first public speech at Oberlin’s August 1 commemoration of Emancipation in the West Indies.
In the fall of 1846 Stone informed her family of her intention to become a woman’s rights lecturer. Her brothers were at once supportive, her father encouraged her to do what she considered her duty, but her mother and only remaining sister begged her to reconsider. To her mother's fears that she would be reviled, Stone said she knew she would be disesteemed and even hated, but she must "pursue that course of conduct which, to me, appears best calculated to promote the highest good of the world.”
Stone then tried to gain practical speaking experience. Although women students could debate each other in their literary society, it was considered inappropriate for them to participate in oral exercises with men; women members of the collegiate rhetoric class were expected to learn by observing their male classmates. So Stone and first-year student Antoinette Brown, who also wanted to develop skill in public speaking, organized an off-campus women’s debating club. After gaining a measure of competence, they sought and received permission to debate each other before Stone’s rhetoric class. The debate attracted a large student audience as well as attention from the Faculty Board, which thereupon formally banned women’s oral exercises in coeducational classes. Shortly thereafter, Stone accepted a challenge from a former editor of a county newspaper to a public debate on women’s rights, and she soundly defeated him. She then submitted a petition to the Faculty Board, signed by most members of her graduating class, asking that women chosen to write graduation essays be permitted to read them themselves, as men so honored did, instead of having them read by faculty members. When the Faculty Board refused and Stone was elected to write an essay, she declined, saying she could not support a principle that denied women “the privilege of being co-laborers with men in any sphere to which their ability makes them adequate.”
Stone received her baccalaureate degree from Oberlin College on August 25, 1847, becoming the first female college graduate from Massachusetts.
Stone gave her first public speeches on women's rights in the fall of 1847, first at brother Bowman’s church in Gardner, Massachusetts, and a little later in neighboring Warren. Stone became a lecturing agent for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in June 1848, persuaded by Abby Kelley Foster that the experience would give her the speaking practice she still felt she needed before beginning her women’s rights campaign. Stone immediately proved to be an effective speaker, reported to wield extraordinary persuasive power over her audiences. She was described as “a little meek-looking Quakerish body, with the sweetest, modest manners and yet as unshrinking and self-possessed as a loaded canon.” One of her assets, in addition to a storytelling ability that could move audiences to tears or laughter as she willed, was said to be an unusual voice that contemporaries compared to a “silver bell,” and of which it was said, “no more perfect instrument had ever been bestowed upon a speaker.”
In addition to helping Stone develop as an orator, the antislavery agency introduced her to a network of progressive reformers within the Garrisonian wing of the abolition movement who assisted her women’s rights work. In the fall of 1848, she received an invitation from Phoebe Hathaway of Farmington, New York, to lecture for the women who had organized the Seneca Falls women’s rights convention and the Rochester women’s rights convention earlier that summer. Although Stone accepted and expected to begin working for them in the fall of 1849, the agency never materialized. In April 1849, Stone was invited to lecture for the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, and Lucretia Mott took advantage of her presence to hold Pennsylvania’s first women’s rights meeting, on May 4, 1849. With the help of abolitionists, Stone conducted Massachusetts’ first petition campaigns for the right of women to vote and hold public office. Wendell Phillips drafted the first petitions and accompanying appeals for circulation, and William Lloyd Garrison published them in the Liberator for readers to copy and circulate. When Stone sent petitions to the legislature in February 1850, over half were from towns where she had lectured.
National Woman's Rights Convention
In April 1850, a woman’s rights convention was held in Salem, Ohio, to a petition drive asking its constitutional convention to revise the state constitution to secure women’s equal legal and political rights as well as woman and Negro suffrage. Stone sent a letter praising their initiative and said, “Massachusetts ought to have taken the lead in the work you are now doing, but if she chooses to linger, let her young sisters of the West set her a worthy example; and if the ‘Pilgrim spirit is not dead,’ we’ll pledge Massachusetts to follow her.” Some of the leaders asked Stone and Lucretia Mott to address the constitutional convention on their behalf, but believing such appeals should come from residents of the state, they declined.
With the support of Garrison and other abolitionists, Stone arranged the May 30, 1850, meeting at Boston’s Melodeon Hall that called the first National Woman’s Rights Convention. Paulina Wright Davis presided while Stone addressed the large audience and served as secretary. Seven women were appointed to organize the convention, with Davis and Stone appointed to conduct the correspondence needed to solicit signatures to the call and recruit speakers and attendance.
A few months before the convention, Stone contracted typhoid fever while traveling in Indiana and nearly died. Frail health limited her participation in the National Woman’s Rights Convention held October 23–24, 1850, in Worcester, Massachusetts, and she made no formal address until the closing session. The convention decided not to establish a formal association, but to exist as an annual convention with a standing committee to arrange its meetings, publish its proceedings, and execute adopted plans of action. Stone was appointed to the Central Committee of nine women and nine men. The following spring she became secretary of the committee and, except for one year, retained that position until 1858. As secretary, Stone took a leading part in organizing and setting the agenda for the national conventions throughout the decade.
Woman’s rights orator
In May 1851, while in Boston attending the New England Anti-Slavery Society’s annual meeting, Stone went to the exhibit of Hiram’s Powers’s statue of The Greek Slave. She was so moved by the sculpture that when she addressed the meeting that evening, she poured out her heart about the statue being emblematic of all enchained womanhood. Stone said the society’s general agent, Samuel May, Jr., reproached her for speaking on women’s rights at an antislavery meeting, and she replied: “I was a woman before I was an abolitionist. I must speak for women.” Three months later Stone notified May that she intended to lecture on women’s rights full-time and would not be available for antislavery work. Stone launched her career as an independent women’s rights lecturer on October 1, 1851. When May continued to press antislavery work upon her, she agreed to lecture for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society on Sundays. Arranging women’s rights lectures around these engagements, she used pay for her antislavery work to defray expenses of her independent lecturing until she felt confident enough to charge admission.
When Stone resumed lecturing in the fall of 1851, she wore a new style of dress that she had adopted during her winter convalescence, consisting of a loose, short jacket and a pair of baggy trousers under a skirt that fell a few inches below the knees. The dress was a product of the health-reform movement and intended to replace the fashionable French dress of a tight bodice over
a whalebone-fitted corset, and a skirt that dragged several inches on the floor, worn over several layers of starched petticoats with straw or horsehair sewn into the hems. Ever since the fall of 1849, when the Water-Cure Journal urged women to invent a style of dress that would allow them the free use of their legs, women across the country had been wearing some form of pants and short skirt, generally called the “Turkish costume” or the “American dress.” Most wore it as a walking or gardening dress, but a letter writer to the National Woman’s Rights Convention urged women to adopt it as common attire.
By the spring of 1851, women in several states were wearing the dress in public. In March, Amelia Bloomer, editor of the temperance newspaper The Lily, announced that she was wearing it and printed a description of her dress along with instructions on how to make it. Soon newspapers had dubbed it the “Bloomer dress” and the name stuck.
The Bloomer became a fashion fad during the following months, as women from Toledo to New York City and Lowell, Massachusetts, held reform-dress social events and festivals. Supporters gathered signatures to a “Declaration of Independence from the Despotism of Parisian Fashion” and organized dress-reform societies. A few Garrisonian supporters of women’s rights took prominent part in these activities, and one offered silk to any of his friends who would make it into a short skirt and trousers for a public dress. Stone accepted the offer.
When Stone lectured in the dress in the fall of 1851, hers was the first Bloomer most of her audiences had ever seen. But by then, the dress had become controversial. Although newspapers had initially praised the practicality of the new style, they soon turned to ridicule and condemnation, now viewing the trousers as a usurpation of the symbol of male authority. Many women retreated in the face of criticism, but Stone continued to wear the short dress exclusively for the next three years. She also wore her hair short, cut just below her jaw line. After Stone lectured in New York City in April 1853, the report of her speeches in the Illustrated News was accompanied by this engraving of Stone in the Bloomer dress.
Stone found the short skirt convenient during her travels and defended it against those who said it was a distraction that hurt the women’s rights cause. Nevertheless, she disliked the instant attention it drew whenever she arrived in a new place. In the fall of 1854, she added a dress a few inches longer, for occasional use. In 1855, she abandoned the dress altogether and was not involved in the formation of a National Dress Reform Association in February, 1856. Her resumption of long skirts drew the condemnation of such dress-reform leaders as Gerrit Smith and Lydia Sayer Hasbrouk, who accused her of sacrificing principle for the sake of pleasing a husband.
On October 14, 1853, following the National Woman's Rights Convention held in Cleveland, Ohio, Stone and Lucretia Mott addressed Cincinnati’s first women’s rights meeting, arranged by Henry Blackwell, a local businessman from a family of capable women, who had taken an interest in Stone. After that successful meeting, Stone accepted Blackwell's offer to arrange a lecturing tour for her in the western states – considered then to be those west of Pennsylvania and Virginia. Over the following thirteen weeks, Stone gave over forty lectures in thirteen cities, during which a report to the New York Tribune said she was stirring the West on women’s rights “as it is seldom stirred on any subject whatsoever.” After four lectures in Louisville, Stone was begged to repeat the entire course and told she was having more effect there than she could have anywhere else. An Indianapolis newspaper reported that Stone “set about two-thirds of the women in the town crazy after women’s rights and placed half the men in a similar predicament.” St. Louis papers said her lectures attracted the largest crowds ever assembled there, filling the city’s largest auditorium beyond its capacity of two thousand. Chicago papers praised her lectures as the best of the season, and said they were inspiring discussion and debate in the city’s homes and meeting places. When Stone headed home in January 1854, she left behind incalculable influence.
From 1854 through 1858, Stone lectured on women’s rights in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ontario. Elizabeth Cady Stanton would later write that "Lucy Stone was the first speaker who really stirred the nation's heart on the subject of woman's wrongs."
Petitioning and hearings
In addition to being the women’s rights movement’s most prominent spokesperson, Lucy Stone led the movement’s petitioning efforts. She initiated petition efforts in New England and several other states and assisted the petitioning efforts of state and local organizations in New York, Ohio, and Indiana.
After petitioning the Massachusetts legislature for the right of women to vote and serve in public office from 1849 through 1852, Stone aimed her 1853 petitions at the convention that would meet on May 4, 1853, to revise the state constitution. Wendell Phillips drafted both the petition asking that the word “male” be stricken wherever it appeared in the constitution, and an appeal urging Massachusetts citizens to sign it. After canvassing the state for nine months, Stone sent the convention petitions bearing over five thousand signatures. On May 27, 1853, Stone and Phillips addressed the convention’s Committee on Qualifications of Voters. In reporting Stone’s hearing, the Liberator noted: “Never before, since the world was made, in any country, has woman publicly made her demand in the hall of legislation to be represented in her own person, and to have an equal part in framing the laws and determining the action of government.”
Stone called a New England Woman’s Rights Convention in Boston on June 2, 1854, to expand her petitioning efforts. The convention adopted her resolution for petitioning all six New England legislatures as well as her proposed form of petition, and it appointed a committee in each state to organize the work. In a speech before the second New England Woman’s Rights Convention, held in June 1855, Stone urged that one reason women needed suffrage was to protect any gains achieved, reminding them that “the next Legislature may undo all that the last have done for women.” The convention adopted a resolution calling the ballot “woman’s sword and shield; the means of achieving and protecting all other civil rights” and another urging the national convention to make suffrage petitioning its priority.
The next National Woman’s Rights Convention met in Cincinnati on October 17 and 18, 1855. It was here that Stone delivered impromptu remarks that became famous as her "disappointment" speech. When a heckler interrupted the proceedings, calling female speakers "a few disappointed women," Stone retorted that yes, she was indeed a "disappointed woman." "In education, in marriage, in religion, in everything, disappointment is the lot of woman. 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. The convention adopted Stone’s resolution calling for the circulation of petitions and saying it was “the duty of women in their respective States to ask the legislators for the elective franchise.” Following the convention, suffrage petitioning took place in the New England states, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nebraska, with resultant legislative hearings or action in Nebraska and Wisconsin. Amelia Bloomer, recently moved to Iowa near the Nebraska border, took up the work in that area, while the Indiana Woman’s Rights Society, at least one of whose officers was at the Cincinnati convention, directed the work in Indiana. Stone had helped launch the New York campaign at a state woman’s rights convention in Saratoga Springs in August, and at the Cleveland convention recruited workers for it as well as for the work in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio. Stone took charge of the work in Ohio, her new home state, drafting its petition, placing it in Ohio newspapers, and circulating it during lectures across southern Ohio while her recruit worked in the northern part of the state. Stone also lectured in Illinois and Indiana in support of the petition drives there, and personally introduced the work in Wisconsin, where she found volunteers to circulate the petition and legislators to introduce them in both houses of the legislature.
At the national convention of 1856, Stone presented a new strategy suggested by Antoinette Brown Blackwell to send a memorial to the various state legislatures signed by the officers of the National Woman’s Rights Convention. Antoinette Brown had married Samuel Charles Blackwell on January 24, 1856, becoming Stone's sister-in-law in the process. Stone, Brown Blackwell, and Ernestine Rose were appointed a committee to carry out the plan. Stone drafted and printed the appeal and Brown Blackwell mailed it to twenty-five state legislatures. Indiana and Pennsylvania referred the memorial to select committees, while both Massachusetts and Maine granted hearings. On March 6, 1857, Stone, Wendell Phillips, and James Freeman Clarke addressed the Judiciary Committee of the Massachusetts senate, and on March 10 Stone and Phillips addressed a select committee of the Maine legislature.
Henry Blackwell began a two-year courtship of Stone in the summer of 1853. Stone told him she did not wish to marry because she did not want to surrender control over her life and would not assume the legal position occupied by a married woman. Blackwell maintained that despite the law, couples could create a marriage of equal partnership, governed by their mutual agreement. They could also take steps to protect the wife against unjust laws, such as placing her assets in the hands of a trustee. He also believed that marriage would allow each partner to accomplish more than he or she could alone, and to show how he could help advance Stone’s work, he arranged her highly successful western lecturing tour of 1853. Over an eighteen-month courtship conducted primarily through correspondence, Stone and Blackwell discussed the nature of marriage, actual and ideal, as well as their own natures and suitability for marriage. Stone gradually fell in love and in November 1854 agreed to marry Blackwell.
Stone and Blackwell developed a private agreement aimed at preserving and protecting Stone’s financial independence and personal liberty. In monetary matters, they agreed that the marriage be like a business partnership, with the partners being “joint proprietors of everything except the results of previous labors.” Neither would have claim to lands belonging to the other, nor any obligation for the other’s costs of holding them. While married and living together they would share earnings, but if they should separate, they would relinquish claim to the other’s subsequent earnings. Each would have the right to will their property to whomever they pleased unless they had children. Over Blackwell’s objections, Stone refused to be supported and insisted on paying half of their mutual expenses. In addition to financial independence, Stone and Blackwell agreed that each would enjoy personal independence and autonomy: “Neither partner shall attempt to fix the residence, employment, or habits of the other, nor shall either partner feel bound to live together any longer than is agreeable to both.” During their discussion of marriage, Stone had given Blackwell a copy of Henry C. Wright’s book Marriage and Parentage; Or, The Reproductive Element in Man, as a Means to His Elevation and Happiness, and asked him to accept its principles as what she considered the relationship between husband and wife should be. Wright proposed that because women bore the results of sexual intercourse, wives should govern a couple’s marital relations. In accordance with that view, Blackwell agreed that Stone would choose “when, where and how often” she would “become a mother.” In addition to this private agreement, Blackwell drew up a protest of laws, rules, and customs that conferred superior rights on husbands and, as part of the wedding ceremony, pledged never to avail himself of those laws.
The wedding took place at Stone’s home in West Brookfield, Massachusetts, on May 1, 1855, with Stone’s close friend and co-worker Thomas Wentworth Higginson officiating. Higginson sent a copy of Stone and Blackwell’s Protest to the Worcester Spy, and from there it spread across the country. While some commentators viewed it as a protest against marriage itself, others agreed that no woman should resign her legal existence without such formal protest against the despotism that forced her to forgo marriage and motherhood or submit to the degradation in which law placed a married woman. It inspired other couples to make similar protests part of their wedding ceremonies.
Keeping her name
Stone viewed the tradition of wives abandoning their own surname to assume that of their husbands as a manifestation of the legal annihilation of a married woman’s identity. Immediately after her marriage, with the agreement of her husband, she continued to sign correspondence as “Lucy Stone” or “Lucy Stone – only.” But during the summer, Blackwell tried to register the deed for property Stone purchased in Wisconsin, and the registrar insisted she sign it as “Lucy Stone Blackwell.” The couple consulted Blackwell’s friend, Salmon P. Chase, a Cincinnati lawyer and future Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, who was not immediately able to answer their question about the legality of her name. So while continuing to sign her name as Lucy Stone in private correspondence, for eight months she signed her name as Lucy Stone Blackwell on public documents and allowed herself to be so identified in convention proceedings and newspaper reports. But upon receiving assurance from Chase that no law required a married woman to change her name, Stone made a public announcement at the May 7, 1856, convention of the American Anti-Slavery Society in Boston that her name remained Lucy Stone. In 1879, when Boston women were granted the franchise in school elections, Stone registered to vote. But officials notified her that she would not be allowed to vote unless she added “Blackwell” to her signature. This she refused to do, and because her time and energy were consumed with suffrage work, she did not challenge the action in a court of law.
Stone and Blackwell had one daughter, Alice Stone Blackwell, born September 14, 1857, who became a leader of the suffrage movement and wrote the first biography of her mother, Lucy Stone: Pioneer Woman Suffragist. In 1858, while the family was living temporarily in Chicago, Stone miscarried and lost a baby boy.
After her marriage, from the summer of 1855 to the summer of 1857, Stone continued a full lecturing, petitioning, and organizing schedule. In January 1856, Stone was accused in court, and spoke in defense of a rumor put forward by the prosecution that Stone gave a knife to former slave Margaret Garner, on trial for the killing of her own child to prevent it from being enslaved. Stone was said to have slipped the prisoner the knife so that Garner could kill herself if she was forced to return to slavery. Stone was referred to by the court as "Mrs. Lucy Stone Blackwell" and was asked if she wanted to defend herself; she preferred to address the assembly off the record after adjournment, saying "...With my own teeth I would tear open my veins and let the earth drink my blood, rather than wear the chains of slavery. How then could I blame her for wishing her child to find freedom with God and the angels, where no chains are?"
But the birth of her daughter in September 1857 made it impossible for her to maintain a high level of activism. Stone had made preliminary arrangements for the 1857 national convention to be held in Providence, but because she would not be able to attend it, she handed responsibility to Susan B. Anthony and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. When the Panic of 1857 disrupted Anthony’s plan to move the convention to Chicago, Stone made the announcement that the next National Woman’s Rights Convention would be in May 1858. Anthony helped Stone arrange the 1858 convention and then took sole responsibility for the 1859 meeting, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton took charge of the 1860 convention.
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 ...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." Stone's friends often felt differently about the issue; "Nettee" Brown wrote to Stone in 1853 that she was not ready to accept the idea, even if both parties wanted divorce. Stanton was less inclined to clerical orthodoxy; she was very much in favor of giving women the right to divorce, eventually coming to the view that the reform of marriage laws was more important than women's voting rights.
In the process of planning for women's rights conventions, Stone worked against Stanton to remove from any proposed platform the formal advocacy of divorce. Stone wished to keep the subject separate, to prevent the appearance of moral laxity. She pushed "for the right of woman to the control of her own person as a moral, intelligent, accountable being." 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.
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. 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.
In January 1858, Stone staged a highly publicized protest that took the issue of taxation without representation across the nation. The previous summer she and Blackwell had purchased a house in Orange, New Jersey, and when the first tax bill came, Stone returned it unpaid with the explanation that taxing women while denying them the right to vote was a violation of America’s founding principles. On January 22, 1858, the city auctioned some of her household goods to pay the tax and attendant court costs. The following month, Stone and Blackwell spoke on taxation without representation before two large meetings in Orange, and circulated petitions asking the New Jersey legislature for woman suffrage. Stone’s protest inspired other tax-paying women to action: some followed her example and refused to pay taxes, with one case reaching the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1863, while others went to the polls to demand their right as tax-payers to vote.
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. 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.
During the May, 1869 AERA conference, a division arose between the great majority 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, one 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. The goals of AWSA were to get the fifteenth amendment passed after which the effort would be redoubled to win women the vote. Beyond membership and the timing of women's suffrage, the groups differed only on minor points of policy.
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." 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. Stone wrote against 'free love:' "Be not deceived—free love means free lust."
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." 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. 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." Woodhull's self-serving activities were attracting disapproval from both centrist AWSA and radical NWSA. 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."
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 suffragists. At the same time, Stone founded the Woman's Journal, a Boston publication voicing the concerns of the AWSA. Stone continued to edit the journal for the rest of her life, assisted by her husband and their daughter.
"The Colorado Lesson"
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 Coloradan 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 voiced 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."
School board vote
In 1879, after Stone organized 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.
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 to attend its first convention, but was elected to chair the executive committee.
Starting early in January, 1891, Carrie Chapman Catt visited Stone repeatedly at Pope's Hill, for the purpose of learning from Stone about the ways of political organizing. Stone had previously met Catt at an Iowa state woman's suffrage convention in October, 1889, and had been impressed at her ambition and sense of presence, saying "Mrs. Chapman will be heard from yet in this movement." Stone mentored Catt the rest of that winter, giving her a wealth of information about lobbying techniques and fund-raising. Catt later used the teaching to good effect in leading the final drive to gain women the vote in 1920.
Catt, Stone and Blackwell went together to the January, 1892 NAWSA convention in Washington, DC. Along with Isabella Beecher Hooker, Stone, Stanton and Anthony, the "triumvirate" of women's suffrage, were called away from the convention's opening hours by an unexpected woman suffrage hearing before the United States House Committee on the Judiciary. Stone told the assembled congressmen "I come before this committee with the sense which I always feel, that we are handicapped as women in what we try to do for ourselves by the single fact that we have no vote. This cheapens us. You do not care so much for us as if we had votes..." Stone argued that men 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. Stone's impromptu speech paled in comparison to Stanton's brilliant outpouring which preceded hers. Stone later published Stanton's speech in its entirety in the Woman's Journal as "Solitude of Self". Back at the NAWSA convention, Anthony was elected president, with Stanton and Stone becoming honorary presidents.
In 1892, Stone was convinced to sit for a portrait in sculpture, rendered by Anne Whitney, sculptor and poet. Stone had previously protested the proposed portrait for more than a year, saying that the funds to engage an artist would be better spent on suffrage work. Stone finally yielded to pressure from Frances Willard, the New England Women's Club and some of her friends and neighbors in the Boston area, and sat while Whitney produced a bust. In February 1893, Stone invited her brother Frank and his wife Sarah to come see the bust, before it was shipped to Chicago for display at the upcoming World's Columbian Exposition.
Stone went with her daughter to Chicago in May, 1893 and gave her last public speeches at the World's Congress of Representative Women where she saw a strong international involvement in women's congresses, with almost 500 women from 27 countries speaking at 81 meetings, and attendance topping 150,000 at the week-long event. Stone's immediate focus was on state referenda under consideration in New York and Nebraska. 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." Stone met with Carrie Chapman Catt and Abigail Scott Duniway to form a plan for organizing in Colorado, and Stone attended two days of meetings about getting a woman suffrage drive restarted in Kansas. Stone and her daughter returned home to Pope's Hill on May 28.
Those who knew Stone well thought her voice was lacking strength. In August when she and her husband Harry wanted to take part in more meetings at the Exposition, she was too weak to go. 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 died on October 18, 1893, at the age of 75. At her funeral three days later, 1,100 people crowded the church, and hundreds more stood silently outside. Six women and six men served as pallbearers, including sculptor Anne Whitney, and Stone's old abolitionist friends Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Samuel Joseph May. 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.
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.
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. In 1921, the Lucy Stone League was founded in New York City by Ruth Hale, described in 1924 by Time as the "'Lucy Stone'-spouse" of Heywood Broun. The League was re-instituted in 1997.
Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Matilda Joslyn Gage and Ida Husted Harper began in 1876 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, Stone's place in history was marginalized in the work. The text was used as the standard scholarly resource on 19th-century American feminism for much of the 20th century, causing Stone's extensive contribution to be overlooked in many histories of women's causes.
On August 13, 1968, the 150th anniversary of her birth, the U.S. Postal Service honored Stone with a 50¢ postage stamp in the Prominent Americans series. The image was adapted from a photograph included in Alice Stone Blackwell's biography of Stone.
Until 1999, the Massachusetts State House displayed only portraits of influential male leaders of the state of Massachusetts. That year, a project called "Hear Us", initiated by the state legislature, came to fruition: the portraits of six female leaders were mounted in the historic building. Lucy Stone was among the women so honored.
In 2000, Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls included a song entitled Lucystoners on her first solo recording, Stag.
An administration and classroom building on Livingston Campus at Rutgers University in New Jersey is named for Lucy Stone. Warren, Massachusetts contains a Lucy Stone Park, along the Quaboag River. Anne Whitney's 1893 bust of Lucy Stone is on display in Boston's Faneuil Hall building.
She is featured on the Boston Women's Heritage Trail.
The Lucy Stone Home Site is owned and managed by The Trustees of Reservations, a non-profit land conservation and historic preservation organization dedicated to preserving natural and historic places in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The site includes 61 acres of forested land on the side of Coys Hill in West Brookfield, Massachusetts. Although the farmhouse in which Stone was born and married burned to the ground in 1950, its ruins are at the center of the property. At the time of Stone’s wedding, both her parents and a married brother and his family lived in the two-and-one-half-story house, and family descendants continued to live there until 1936. In 1915, a pilgrimage of suffragists placed a memorial tablet on the house, which read: “This house was the birthplace of Lucy Stone, pioneer advocate of equal rights for women. Born August 13, 1818. Married May 1, 1855, died October 18, 1893. In grateful memory Massachusetts suffragists placed this tablet August 13, 1915.” That tablet, severely damaged but surviving the 1950 fire, is now in the Quaboag Historical Society Museum. After the fire, the surrounding farmland was abandoned and left to revert to forest, and it is now used for hunting and harvesting timber. The Trustees acquired the home site in 2002 and have been maintaining the property ever since.