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Lucy Stone and the Women's Rights Movement

February 24, 2015 in History

Library of Congress

February 24, 2015 4:33 p.m.

Sally G. McMillen is the author of a new book on Lucy Stone and has written a post for American Experience about the 19th-century abolitionist and suffragist. Although Stone was one of the most well-known women in America in the mid-1850s, she is not as widely-known today. Read McMillen’s piece below on why Lucy Stone is just as much of a part of the women’s rights movement as her contemporaries, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Lucy Stone was born in West Brookfield, Massachusetts, in 1818 and died in Boston in 1893. She was one of the most famous women of her day – as a lecturer for abolition and women’s suffrage and one of the most important leaders of the nineteenth-century women’s rights movement.

Though she was born almost two hundred years ago, Lucy Stone’s life and achievements resonate and inspire us today. While in her teens, she realized the importance of higher education in order to lead a meaningful life. Since her father would not pay for her education, she earned the money she needed and enrolled at Oberlin Collegiate Institute, graduating four years later at the age of twenty-nine as one of the first women in the nation and the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree.Stone then pursued a highly unusual career for a woman of her day—as a paid lecturer for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Within months, she added women’s suffrage to her speeches. For years, she campaigned tirelessly for both causes, traveling widely and attracting hundreds, sometimes thousands of people to hear her passionate oratory. By the mid-1850s, she had become one of the most famous women in America and was earning a substantial income. Her messages were uncompromising, demanding that a nation defining itself as democratic abolish slavery and give women the rights they deserved.

Stone inspires us with her messages and her unremitting commitment to those beliefs. She renounced marriage, since at that time, the law subordinated married women to their husbands, giving them no right to own their own property or to act as independent beings. But in 1855 she finally married a man who promised to let her live life as that independent being. Immediately following the ceremony, she and husband Henry Blackwell issued a written protest to the laws that made wives virtually invisible. A year later – again, taking action that was far out …read more


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