American Lecturer and Pioneer of Women
1818 – 1893
Lucy Stone, an American lecturer and pioneer in the movement for the legal and political elevation of women. Her father, Francis Stone, was a farmer of West Brookfield, MS, and her mother was a gentle and beautiful woman, who worked hard as a farmer’s wife.
When Lucy, the eighth child was born, Mrs. Stone, who had milked the cows the night before the birth of her child said: “I am sorry it is a girl. A woman’s life is so hard!”
Lucy’s childhood was spent in useful work in the house and on the farm, she seemed to be preparing herself for a helper of some industrious and saving farmer, but during these early years the girl was thinking of matters beyond her age. Why was her sweet mother obliged to yield to the stern will of the father? Why, after all the hard years of united labor, was the money all his? Why were there no opportunities for girls to earn a living like their brothers? Why did men to go college, while women were offered only the simplest rudiments of an education?
Feeling that the laws of the country were wrong in such matters, Lucy determined to secure an education. Her two elder brothers were assisted by the father to go to college, but when Lucy asked to be helped also, Mrs. Stone refused, saying: “Your mother only learned to read, write and cipher; if that was enough for her, it should be enough for you.” Years afterward, he said: “You were right, and I was wrong.”
Lucy now began to earn money for a college course. She picked berries in the hot sun in summer, sold them, and hoarded up the pittance which they brought. In the autumn she gathered chestnuts, and with the money obtained she bought books. As soon as she was old enough she taught school, and at the age of twenty, she studied for a time at Mt. Holyoke Seminary. When she was twenty-five she had earned enough money to enter Oberlin College, Ohio, then the only college in the country willing to admit women. Here she paid her way by teaching, and by doing housework. She lived on less than a dollar a week, and had only one new dress during the whole four college years, and that was a calico.
After graduating, having shown her ability as a speaker, she was engaged to lecture for the Anti-Slavery Society, and from this time onward for many years Lucy Stone travelled [sic] over a large part of the United States, speaking for woman suffrage or for the colored people. She suffered the usual persecutions visited on pioneers of thought, but her courage and sweetness of temper enabled her to go on with her work.
When she was nearly thirty-seven she married Henry B. Blackwell, who was devoted to her purposes in life. Their only child, Alice, became not only a helper during the life of her mother, but an able up-holder of her principles after her death.
For nearly forty years after her marriage, Lucy Stone’s life was one untiring, continuous effort for humanity. In 1869 she helped to organize the American Woman Suffrage Association, and the year following established the Woman’s Journal.
She spoke before numberless clubs and societies, wrote articles for the press, studied the law carefully, and had an accurate knowledge of its injustice to women in various states. When she began her work, only a few occupations were open to women, they had almost no opportunity for higher education, they would not enter the professions, and no wife had any right to herself. The great changes in the laws during the past fifty years were brought about largely by Lucy Stone and a few other brave and devoted women.
In the summer of 1893, worn with constant labor of an unusual life, her health declined, and on October 18th she passed away as if in sleep. A short time before, she said: “I have done what I wanted to do. I have helped the women.” Her parting words to her daughter were: “Make the world better,” and her last articulate word “Papa” was to the man who had been her devoted companion in a happy union of almost forty years.
Sarah Knowles Bolton in Famous Leaders Among Women says:
“Lucy Stone’s life will always be an inspiration to every man and woman who is struggling for principle; to every youth, who, poor and unaided, is working for an education; to every boy or girl who learns, through her history, the secret of that cheerful, indomitable courage and energy which bring success. She has given the world an example of persistent purpose, united with great gentleness and loveliness of character.”
Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.