Lucy Stone was a prominent leader of the woman's rights movement in nineteenth century America.
Stone was born on August 13, 1818, in Massachusetts. Stone became especially unhappy as a child when her brothers received a formal education while she did not. Her father justified this by his interpretation of the Bible. Although still a child, Stone decided that she would learn Hebrew and Greek when she became an adult so that she could translate the Bible correctly.
Despite her father's refusal to allow her to receive an education, she read everything that she could find. In 1839, she enrolled at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. Four years later, she had earned enough money through teaching school or serving as a private tutor to enroll at Oberlin College in Ohio. Oberlin was the first college in the United States to admit both African Americans and women. Stone graduated in 1847. The college asked her to draft a commencement address. However, a man was to read her speech because many people viewed it as unseemly for a woman to address a public audience. Stone refused to write the address.
After her graduation, Stone returned to Massachusetts, and began a career fighting for the rights of women and African Americans. She gave her first speech on women's rights in 1847. In 1848, she joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and traveled across the North, urging people to oppose slavery. Some abolitionists opposed Stone's views on women rights and contended that Stone took support away from African-American rights by linking them to women's rights. As a compromise, Stone agreed to give speeches on abolitionism on weekends and speeches regarding women's rights on weekdays.
Many people in her audiences opposed her views. They commonly disrupted her lectures. Sometimes they would shout her down. On other occasions, people would throw Bibles and claim that she was violating God's word. Stone had studied both Greek and Hebrew at Oberlin and personally translated several Bible passages about the roles of men and women. She concluded that the accepted view was incorrect. She was raised in the Congregational Church, but many Congregationalists disagreed with her findings. The church eventually expelled her, and Stone joined the more tolerant Unitarian Church.
Lucy Stone spent the late 1840s and the early 1850s traveling across the United States, hoping to build support for both abolition and women's rights. On a trip to Cincinnati in 1853, she met Henry Blackwell, a businessman. Stone and Blackwell married in 1855. Stone refused to take her husband's last name. She was one of the first women in the United States to retain her maiden name upon becoming married. For a number of years, women who retained their maiden name upon marriage were sometimes referred to as "Lucy Stoners." While residing in Cincinnati, Stone testified on the behalf of Margaret Garner, a fugitive slave who murdered one of her young children to prevent her return to slavery. In 1857, Stone retired from public speaking so that she could take care of her infant daughter. In that same year, the family moved from Ohio to New Jersey.
Stone remained out of the women's rights debate until the late 1860s, when she again began to give lectures. She was upset that the Fourteenth Amendment, which gave African Americans equal protection under the law, and the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave adult African-American men the right to vote, did not also apply to women of all races. Stone helped found the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), which lobbied for women to have the right to vote. At the same time, another group of women, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, established the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). The American Woman Suffrage Association later merged with the National woman Suffrage Association.
In 1873, Stone and her husband became editors of The Women's Journal, a weekly newspaper that argued for women's rights. Stone preferred serving as editor to lecturing. While she was an advocate of women's rights, she enjoyed remaining at home with her family. Her commitment to women's rights, however, did not waver. In 1879, Massachusetts allowed women to vote for school board members. Stone was a resident of Boston, and city election officials denied her the right to vote unless she adopted her husband's name. She refused. Stone died in 1893, twenty-seven years before women would gain the right to vote nationally.
- Blackwell, Alice Stone. Lucy Stone: Pioneer Woman Suffragist. N.p.: Alice Stone Blackwell, 1930.
- Kerr, Andrea Moore. Lucy Stone: Speaking Out for Equality. N.p.: Rutgers University Press, 1992.
- Stone, Lucy. Loving Warriors: Selected Letters of Lucy Stone and Henry B. Blackwell, 1853-1893. N.p.: Doubleday, 1981.