Lucy Stone

Lived:August 13, 1818—October 19, 1893 (aged 75)
Career:Abolitionist, suffragist, women's rights activist
Education:Oberlin College

Lucy Stone, abolitionist and women's rights activist, was born in West Brookfield, Massachusetts, on August 13, 1818. At the age of 16, after completing local schools, she taught and saved money for advanced study. She attended nearby Mount Holyoke Seminary for one term in 1839, but returned home to attend to the illness of a sister. Stone waited until 1843 to enroll at the Oberlin Collegiate Institute (later Oberlin College); upon her graduation in 1847, she became the first Massachusetts woman to earn a bachelor's degree.

Stone gave her first public talk on women's rights from her brother's pulpit in Gardner, Massachusetts, in December 1847. She was then hired as an agent for the Garrisonian Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society the following year. In addition, she played a leading role in the burgeoning women's rights movement, serving as an organizer for its first national convention in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1850. In 1855, Stone married hardware merchant, Henry Blackwell, though omitting the word "obey" from the vows. Stone also chose to keep her own surname.

During the Civil War, Stone joined other feminist-abolitionists to found the Women's National Loyal League, an organization committed to the full emancipation and enfranchisement of African Americans. When Reconstruction began, Stone became a founder of the American Equal Rights Association (AERA), a union of women's rights and abolition supporters determined to support the extension of voting rights irrespective of both race and sex. Under its advocacy, Stone made an extended tour of Kansas in 1867, campaigning for state constitutional recognition of equal rights for both women and African Americans. Federal congressional action, first on the Fourteenth Amendment, which provided civil rights for freed slaves while ensuring voter protection only for men, and then on the Fifteenth Amendment, which guaranteed equal rights without regard to color while pointedly neglecting the issue of sex, angered many women's rights supporters. This caused a division in the women's rights movement. Stone ultimately resigned herself to the provision of voting rights for African American men, without accompanying enfranchisement of white or Black women. In 1869, Stone, her husband, Mary Livermore, Julia Ward Howe, and others held a convention in Cleveland, at which they founded the rival American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), dedicated to achieving woman suffrage, especially through state-level legislation, while refusing to undermine achievements in African American civil rights.

In 1867, Stone and her husband relocated their household to Dorchester, Massachusetts, and raised capital for a newspaper, to be called the Woman's Journal, by selling shares in a joint stock company to Boston supporters. Livermore agreed to merge her Chicago-based reform paper, The Agitator, into the new publication, now issued from the Boston headquarters of the American Woman Suffrage Association. She remained editor-in-chief from the debut of the paper on January 1, 1870 until 1872, when Stone assumed primary responsibility for the weekly paper with assistance from her husband and, after 1882, their daughter, Alice.

Stone remained in demand as a suffrage speaker, addressing state legislatures, women's clubs, collegiate alumni, and political conventions from Colorado to Vermont, but increasingly, she focused her attention on the paper, which she likened to "big baby which never grew up, and always had to be fed." Devoted to the interests of woman, to her educational, industrial, legal and political equality, and especially to her right of suffrage, the Woman's Journal, and particularly Stone's writing, covered a vast array of events, history, and personalities. Ironically, Stone's principles blocked her one attempt to exercise her own right to suffrage; in 1879, she registered under the new Massachusetts law permitting women to vote in school elections, but her name was erased by officials who refused to accept her enrollment under her own, not her husband's, surname.

In 1890, Stone assisted the merger of the NWSA and the AWSA into the National American Woman Suffrage Association, becoming the chair of its executive committee, but her failing health kept her close to home except for occasions that honored her pioneering suffrage activism. Her last public appearance took her to the Congress of Representative Women at the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition in May 1893. After she died at her home on October 18, 1893, in Dorchester, Stone's was the first body cremated in New England.


Lasser, Carol. 2000. "Stone, Lucy." American National Biography.