After graduating from Oberlin College in 1847, Lucy Stone began lecturing for the abolitionist movement as a paid representative of the American Anti-Slavery Society. She said in 1847, “I expect to plead not for the slave only, but for suffering humanity everywhere. Especially do I mean for the labor for the elevation of my sex” A gifted and persuasive speaker, Lucy was able to negotiate the talking points of her public speeches to include women’s rights in conjunction with anti-slavery rhetoric. This was no easy feat considering the patriarchy of the time that frowned upon women speaking in public, let alone on topics of considerable debate. Mixed audiences were frowned upon as “promiscuous” and Stone was often greeted by angry protesters armed with rotten fruit, eggs and other annoying articles to hurl at her in opposition to her public speeches.
Lucy Stone did not participate in the Seneca Falls Convention, but she helped organize of the 1850 Worcester(MA) First National Woman’s Rights Convention, where she had the opportunity to address the audience as well as actively participate in the activities. It is her 1852 speech at the National Woman’s Rights Convention in Syracuse, New York, that Stone’s passionate speech about women’s property rights is credited with motivating Susan B. Anthony to commit to the cause of women’s rights. Lucy Stone participated in the 1852, 1853, and 1855 national woman’s rights conventions, and was president of the 1856 National Woman’s Rights Convention held in New York, New York.
Lucy Stone never wanted to marry because she did not want to be “someone else’s property.” However, when she met and developed a relationship with fellow renowned abolitionist Henry Blackwell, he was able to convince her that she could retain all of the privileges that she currently enjoyed(which realistically were none) as a single woman. Her marriage to Henry Blackwell in 1855, consequently broke all Victorian conventions of marriage etiquette by refusing to change her given name to Blackwell’s with his full support and approval. In fact, at the ceremony the minister read a statement from the bride and groom, announcing that Stone would keep her own name. The statement said that current marriage laws “refuse to recognize the wife as an independent, rational being, while they confer on the husband an injurious and unnatural superiority, investing him with legal powers which no honorable man would exercise, and which no man should possess.” Stone was revolutionary in the infancy stages of the Women’s Rights Movement by being recognized as the first recorded woman in the United States to legally keep her maiden name and for inspiring a movement of women who followed her example and called themselves “Lucy Stoners.”
Stay tuned for next week’s excerpt on the “Great Schism” in the Women’s Movement