From Farm to College and Beyond
1818 – 1893 A.D.
On a rocky farm in West Brookfield, Mass., Lucy Stone was born. She was the eighth child. The mother milked eight cows the night before Lucy was born. When it was known that the babe was a girl the mother exclaimed, “Oh dear! I am so sorry it is a girl! A woman’s life is so hard.” But Lucy’s life was devoted to making life easier.
Her own lot was one of toil from childhood. She had to perform the usual duties of a farmer’s daughter, but all the time she was thinking and questioning. Her soul rebelled at the unequal lot of a woman in point of education and wages.
Her two brothers were helped to go to college. Lucy desired to do the same. Her father exclaimed, “Is the child crazy?” To her he said, “Your mother only learned to read, write, and cipher; if that was enough for her it should be enough for you.”
This did not discourage her, it only gave her a grim determination to win the way. She would go to college. She picked berries and laid by the money earned in the hot sun. She gathered chestnuts and with the money bought books. She was able after a time to teach school, at first for one dollar per week. When at last she earned sixteen dollars per month, it was thought remarkable for a woman. When her brother was sick she took his school for a time. His wages were thirty dollars per month, but the committee gave her but sixteen because “it was enough for a woman.” These things were bitterness to her heart but they nerved her for the struggle.
At twenty-five she had earned enough money to enter Oberlin College, which was the only college in the land to admit women at that time. She earned her way in part by tutoring and doing housework. In the four years course she had but one new dress and that was calico.
Even at Oberlin she found women were not treated as equals of men. Her work was so excellent that she was awarded one of the commencement honors, but was informed that her essay would be read by one of the professors, and it was not considered proper for a woman to read or speak in public. With her uncompromising spirit she declined to submit an essay. She would not have honors which were at the same time a source of humiliation. When Oberlin celebrated its semi-centennial forty years after Lucy Stone graduated, she was one of the honored speakers.
Oberlin was a friend of the slave and Lucy became a pronounced abolitionist. In her life work for the slave woman, she encountered opposition and even insults. Upon one occasion she was to speak in Malden. The Congregational minister gave notice that “A hen will undertake to crow like a cock at the town hall this afternoon. Anybody who wants to hear that kind of music will of course attend.”
She was sometimes compelled to meet not merely ridicule, but mob violence. At one time she and Stephen Foster were holding an anti-slavery meeting. Mr. Foster was attacked and his coat torn from his back. Lucy Stone got the mastery of the mob by her power of intellect and will, so that before the meeting closed a collection of twenty dollars was taken and given to Mr. Foster to pay for a new coat.
She worked for woman suffrage in Colorado and afterwards, in 1893, it bore fruit in a constitutional amendment giving women the same rights as men in exercising the election franchise.
Many sought her hand in marriage, but in vain. Mr. Henry B. Blackwell was, however, at last successful. He had been a working in the anti-slavery cause and devotedly loved this kindred spirit. They were married in 1855, when Lucy was thirty-seven years old. They were agreed that she should retain her maiden name and be known as Lucy Stone. Their wedded life was one of happy co-operation.
“As a pioneer in the movement for the legal and political elevation of woman, she lived through ridicule, obloquy, and even persecution, until at last she was known and reverenced as the heroine of a great, beneficent, and actually accomplished revolution.” Lucy Stone had in her nature a rare combination of strength and sweetness. The strength had been developed in the struggle for an education. The sweetness was inherited from the toiling but always sympathetic mother.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.