Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Lucy Stone 1818 ~ 1893

 


Lucy Stone

Of Lucy Stone, Mrs. Stanton says: "She was the first speaker who really stirred the nation's heart on the subject of woman's wrongs. Young, magnetic, eloquent, her soul filled with the new idea, she drew immense audiences, and was eulogized everywhere. She spoke extemporaneously." Her birthplace was West Brookfield, Massachusetts, and she was born August 13, 1818. The family came honestly by good fighting blood, her great-grandfather having been killed in the French and Indian War and her grandfather having served in the War of the Revolution and afterwards was captain of four hundred men in Shays' Rebellion. Her father, Frances Stone, was a prosperous farmer and a man of great energy, much respected by his neighbors, and not intentionally unkind or unjust, but full of that belief in the right of men to rule, which was general in those days, and ruling his own family with a strong hand. Although he helped his son through college, when his daughter Lucy wished to go he said to his wife, "Is the child crazy?" and she had to earn the money herself. For years she taught district schools, teaching and studying alternately at the low wages then paid to women teachers. It took her till she was twenty-five years of age to earn the money to take her to Oberlin, then the one college in the country that admitted women.

In Oberlin she earned her way by teaching during vacations, and in the preparatory department of the college, and by doing housework in the ladies' boarding hall, at three cents an hour. Most of the time she cooked her food in her own room, boarding herself at a cost of less than fifty cents a week. At her graduation we have the first hint of the stand she was to take for woman's rights. Graduating with honors, she was appointed to write a commencement essay, but finding that she would not be allowed to read it herself, but that one of the professors would have to read it for her (the young women in those days not being allowed to read their own work in public) she declined to write it. After her return to New England she discovered her ability as a speaker, and her first woman's rights lecture was given from the pulpit of her brother's church, in Gardner, Massachusetts, in 1847. Soon after she was engaged to lecture for the Anti-Slavery Association.

It was still a great novelty for a woman to speak in public, and curiosity attracted great audiences. She always put a great deal of woman's rights into her anti-slavery lectures, and finally when Powers' ''Greek Slave" was on exhibition in Boston the sight of the statue moved her so strongly that in her next lecture there was so much woman's rights and so little anti-slavery that Rev. Samuel May, who arranged her lectures, said to her, ''Lucy, that was beautiful, but on the anti-slavery platform it will not do." She answered, "I know it, but I was a woman before I was an Abolitionist, and I must speak for the women."

Accordingly, it was arranged that she should lecture for woman's rights on her own responsibility all the week and should lecture for the anti-slavery society on Saturday and Sunday nights. Her adventures during the next few years would fill a volume. She arranged her own meetings, putting her own handbills up with a little package of tacks which she carried and a stone, picked up in the street. Of course, woman's rights was still considered a subject for ridicule when not the object of violent attack. One minister in Maiden, Mass., being asked to give a notice of her meeting, did so, as follows: "I am asked to give notice that a hen will attempt to crow like a cock in the town hall at five o'clock tomorrow evening. Those who like such music will, of course, attend." At a meeting in Connecticut one cold night a pane of glass was removed from the church window and a hose inserted and Miss Stone was suddenly deluged from head to foot She wrapped a shawl about her, however, and went on with her lecture. At an open air meeting in a grove on Cape Cod, where there were a number of speakers, the mob gathered with such threatening demonstration that all the speakers slipped away, till no one was left on the platform but Miss Stone and Stephen Foster. She said to him, "You had better go, Stephen, they are coming."

He answered, "Who will take care of you?" At that moment the mob made a rush and one of the ringleaders, a big man with a club, sprang up on the platform. Turning to him without a sign of fear she remarked in her sweet voice, This gentleman will take care of me." And to the utter astonishment of the angry throng he tucked her under one arm and holding his club with the other, marched her through the crowd. He then mounted her upon a stump and stood by her with his club while she addressed the mob upon the enormity of their attack. They finally became so ashamed that, at her suggestion, they took up a collection of twenty dollars to pay Stephen Foster for his coat, which they had rent from top to bottom.

In 1855 she became the wife of Henry B. Blackwell, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, then the Unitarian Pastor, performing the ceremony. She had protested against the marriage, particularly the taking of the husband's name by the wife as a symbol of her subjection to him and of the merging of her individuality in his, and as Ellis Gay Loring, Samuel E, Sewell and other eminent lawyers told her that there was no law requiring a wife to take her husband's name she retained her own name with her husband's full approval and support.

In 1869, with William Lloyd Garrison, George William Curtis, Julia Ward Howe, Mrs. Livermore and others, she organized the American Woman Suffrage Association and was chairman of its executive committee during the twenty years following, except during one year when she was its president She took part in the campaigns in behalf of Woman Suffrage Amendments, submitted in Kansas in 1867, in Vermont in 1870, in Colorado in 1877 and in Nebraska in 1882. For over twenty years she was editor of the Woman's Journal. The following eloquent appeal from her faithful, fearless pen, appearing in that magazine during the presidential activities of Centennial Year, gives a characteristic glimpse of her ardor for woman's rights. "Women of the United States, never forget that you are excluded by law from participation in the great question which at this moment agitates the whole country a, question which is not only who the next candidate for president will be, but what shall be the policy of the government under which we live for the next four years. But have you ever thought that the dog on your rug and the cat in your corner has as much political power as you have? Never forget it, and when the country is shaken, as it will be for months to come, over the issue, never forget that this law-making power states every interest of yours. It states your rules to a right in your child. You earn or inherit a dollar and this same power decides how much of it shall be yours and how much it will take or dispose of for its own use. Oh, woman, the only subjugated one in this great country, will you be the only adult people who are ruled over! Pray for fire to reveal to you the humiliation of the unspeakable laws which come of your unequal position.' Lucy Stone died in Dorchester, Mass., the 18th of October, 1893.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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