Read an Excerpt
The Martyr and the Missionary: Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell
By 1855 Lucy Stone had resisted the pleading of her suitor, Henry Blackwell, for three years. Ever since their chance meeting in Cincinnati when she had tried to cash a payment voucher from one of her lectures at his hardware store, he had pursued her -- by letter, by attendance at the annual women's conventions (where Lucy, in her lover's eyes, always delivered the best speech), and once by arriving, unannounced, at her family's farm in western Massachusetts, where he waited several days reading Emerson before she returned from a lecture tour. "Let me be your friend and write to you occasionally," Blackwell implored, sending her long, engaging letters addressed to "Miss Lucy." "Love me if you can," he reiterated, adopting patient adoration as his courting strategy. "You may forget me if you will. I shall not forget you."1
By the 1850s Lucy Stone was one of the most famous women in the United States. Success as an antislavery lecturer in the late 1840s had reinforced her personal commitment to what she capitalized as "The Cause." At first Lucy had meant by that the abolitionist efforts of the American Antislavery Association to create a "thorough discontent" among Americans about slavery and the circumstances of "millions of slaves sighing for freedom." But to the chagrin of antislavery leaders like Frederick Douglass and Samuel May, Lucy increasingly inserted stories about the woman's plight in her speeches until she wastold that during her lecture tours she must stick to antislaveryism on the weekends and save women's issues for her less well-attended lectures on weeknights. In 1854, on the front page of his newspaper, Douglass accused her of being willing "to say to her antislavery principles, stand aside while I deal out truth less offensive." By no means intimidated by such censure, Lucy responded that she was a woman before she was an abolitionist.2
"My life," she informed Henry Blackwell in a letter that might have chilled a less ardent suitor's passion, will be "an associative life ... For myself I see no choice but constant conflict ... made necessary by the horrid wrongs of society, by circumstances which it will be impossible to change until long after the grave has laid its cold colors over those who now live." It was the martyr's stance -- her own suffering increased her identification with those whom she would free -- and it became Lucy's lifelong reform habit. "The objects I seek to attain will not be attained until long after my body has gone to ashes." And like all martyrs, Lucy Stone's ideals were imbedded in personal history.3
Born in 1818, on her father's farm in the Massachusetts Berkshires -- the eighth of nine children -- she had nowhere observed the pleasant intimacies of a loving marriage, or the joys of parents in shaping their children's futures, or even the domestic security of the middle-class home that, romanticized as the female's separate sphere, served as the essential enterprise for American women. Instead this third daughter remembered her mother's plaintive and oft-repeated wish that Lucy and her younger sister, Sarah, had been boys. "A woman's lot is so hard," repeated Hannah Stone. Lucy had come to agree, as she watched her mother suffer from a drunken husband's abuse, the birth of nine children followed by the death of four, and the incessant domestic drudgery of women's work on an isolated farm. She had seen her mother beg for pin money, not for herself, but rather to buy a ribbon for Lucy or material for her older sister Rhoda's school dress. "I wish your life could have been happier," Lucy once wrote her mother, as she remembered how "ugly" her father had been about giving money to the women of the household.4
By the age of twelve, Lucy had absorbed a sense of duty that obliged her to run the Stone household when her mother's healthfailed -- to milk the eight cows that were her mother's responsibility, to do Monday's washing, Tuesday's ironing, Wednesday's butter making, Thursday's cleaning, Friday's weaving, and Saturday's baking in the routinized cycle that ended only in Sunday's brief respite. It was, as she later acknowledged, "a perverse childhood."
Lucy's father, Francis Stone, was a hard man -- as durable (he outlived his wife by four years) and impenetrable as his last name. On the nights when he and his friends drank rum and hard cider in the family parlor, Lucy and her sisters learned to avoid "his laying on the slaps," especially when he ordered them down to the cellar to bring up yet another bottle of liquor.5 And later when Stone turned to the church to stop his drinking, he refused to pray with Lucy. In this family there would be no joyful conversion of the kind popularized across the United States during the religious revivals of the Great Awakening. "He told me he would not pray, that he felt like the lions when Daniel was in the den, his mouth was shut ... and when I asked him if he thought it was the angel of the Lord that shut his mouth, he did not know what it was." Never would the proud Francis Stone bare his soul to the daughter who challenged his beliefs on the position of women.6
While Hannah Stone and her daughters had no context for any improvement in their circumstances, Francis Stone did, in the way of fathers whose ancestors had fought in the French and Indian Wars, the American Revolution, and in Stone's case, Shays' Rebellion. He was ambitious for his sons and sought for them something beyond his own life of relentless toil, first in a tannery and later on the farm outside of West Brookfield where he kept chickens, cows, and pigs and raised alfalfa and oats. Although he had little formal schooling himself, he paid for his sons' education in Maine and later their college tuitions at Amherst; he subscribed to the Massachusetts Spy and the Antislavery Standard so that they might envision the world beyond the rocky promontory of Coy's Hill. There his 145-acre property ended, though neither the view nor his expectations for his sons did. In his will he left his land and money disproportionately to his sons, for he expected his daughters to be supported by their husbands. Sarah, his youngest daughter, was outraged by this favoritism, but by 1864, when her father died, Lucy did not expect otherwise.7
For years the rebellious Lucy clashed with her father, even as she tried to gain his attention by good works, serving as a surrogate housekeeper, doing well in school, and even helping to repair his homemade shoes. "There was only one will in my family and it was my father's," Lucy Stone remembered, and it was a will enforced by insults and physical force. For a lifetime she blushed at the memory of his cruel comparison of her round face in its heaviness, rough texture, and shape to a blacksmith's apron. It would light no sparks, he said, wondering aloud whether his daughter with the large mole above her upper lip, unlike her pretty sister Sarah, would ever find a husband among the local boys who were the only ones she knew.8
Lucy retaliated. When the congregation of the West Brookfield Congregational Church debated the issue of whether women should speak in public as the South Carolina-born abolitionists Angelina and Sarah Grimké were doing in their lecture tours, Lucy embarrassed her father by insisting on voting, as no other woman did. Again and again she raised her hand for the affirmative, until the pastor finally rebuked her. Women might be church members, Deacon Henshaw instructed, but they were not voting members. In the end the congregation voted to accept the pastoral letter written by the leaders of the Congregational Church that condemned Angelina Grimké's lecturing. Women violated biblical edict if they spoke in public. The reason given was that the character of any woman who spoke in public became unnatural -- too independent and "overshadowing of the elm." Later when Lucy lectured in the West Brookfield meeting hall, her father, humiliated that any daughter of his would speak in public and even more heretically on the rights of women, buried his face in his hands. Still it pleased Lucy that a father who once called her a slut had come at all.9
When Lucy proposed to her parents that she attend Oberlin College in faraway Ohio, Francis Stone refused to help. So she began a campaign to pay her own way, teaching in the district school for sixteen dollars a month, selling chestnuts and berries, and sewing shoes in the piecework household economy that still prevailed in western Massachusetts. Sometimes she took one of her mother's homemade cheeses to market and bargained for the highest price. It took nineyears to save the necessary seventy dollars for the first year's room and tuition at Oberlin, but the process educated Lucy Stone in the uses of patience and determination. Having arrived at college in the summer of 1843 after a lonely five-hundred-mile journey by railroad to Buffalo, and then by steamer across Lake Erie to Cleveland (where she slept on deck), and finally by coach to the small town of Oberlin, Ohio, twenty-five-year-old Lucy proudly reported that, "in the words of Father I passed muster."10
But the battle was not over; indeed, for Lucy Stone, the struggle never ended. Now she must find the means to pay her tuition and board for her remaining years at Oberlin, though her crowded daily schedule required that she rise at four in the morning, attend recitations of Latin, Greek, and algebra after breakfast, write compositions in the afternoon, and study in the evening. Her father was so impressed with her hard work that he agreed to a fifteen-dollar loan the next year, with the stipulation that it must be promptly repaid after Lucy graduated. With this in mind, on Saturdays Lucy cleaned homes for three cents an hour and taught reading and writing to a class of African American men, some former slaves, for twelve and a half cents an hour. Her students, at first, were outraged that their teacher was a woman.11
Since its founding in 1833 Oberlin College had pioneered interracial coeducation, awarding degrees to both white women (three had graduated before Lucy's arrival) and African American men. The arrival in 1835 of a group of refugee students and faculty protesting the stifling of antislavery views at the Lane Seminary in Cincinnati reinforced the institution's commitment to abolitionism. Its faculty promoted the views of perfectionists who believed that man's sins could be atoned for by conversion experiences inspired by Christ's death on the cross. They also promoted the view that Oberlin students must dedicate themselves to the hard duty of improving self and society.12 As Lucy wrote her sister, "you never heard such scorching, plain, personal, political preaching as we get there. Individuals are called out by name." The effect was to inculcate an approach to reform based on changing the minds of individuals who would be converted in public meetings by listening to inspired orators and prophets foretelling abetter world. Thereafter the wayward would read propaganda and follow the example of ministers and reformers. Such were the means Lucy used for the rest of her life.13
Soon Lucy was known as a radical even among radicals. Before her arrival at Oberlin her future sister-in-law Antoinette (Nette) Brown was warned to beware the eccentric Lucy Stone, who not only read William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist newspaper the Liberator but who also talked about how to end women's oppression. She deserved her reputation. Prevented from debating with the male students after reading assignments in Porter's Rhetorical Reader and Whately's Logic and Rhetoric, she organized a club for female students off-campus. Because wearing a hat in church induced the migraine headaches she suffered from throughout her life, she fought against the requirement and won the partial concession that hatless she might sit in the back of the church. For inspiration she hung in her tiny room a lithograph of Garrison, who had been jailed in Baltimore for challenging the U.S. Constitution, in its allowance of slavery, as an agreement with the Devil and a covenant with hell.14
There were limits to Oberlin's tolerance. Chosen by her classmates to present an essay at graduation, Lucy Stone was forbidden to read it before an audience of men and women -- a so-called promiscuous gathering -- although she could, as other seniors did, read it to the Lady Board of Managers and the other female students. Or she could have another graduate -- necessarily a man -- read her paper. Lucy acknowledged her agony, for she had worked tirelessly to place among the top students and deserved the honor. But in the end principle won and she refused to write, much less read, any essay to a gender-segregated audience. Already disposed to her lifelong habit of martyrdom, she would never, she wrote her mother, surrender her principles for some worldly honor.15
When she graduated in 1847, Lucy Stone was nearly thirty years old. Along with her college degree, she had absorbed essential training in the efficacy of self-help. But rather than a cause for celebrating obstacles overcome, her struggles and unremitting labor at Oberlin reinforced an earlier tendency toward the inspiration of tormented sacrifice. Disappointment became her talisman. In 1855, to a large audience in Cincinnati, she acknowledged as much: "From the firstyears to which my memory stretches, I have been a disappointed woman ... In education, in marriage, in religion, in everything, disappointment is the lot of woman." She meant this as a generic comment about the fate of nineteenth-century women, but pessimism, a lifelong habit of mind, permeated her career as a reformer. Twenty years later these predispositions of temperament would drastically affect the suffrage movement.16
Unlike most of the women at Oberlin who expected no more than marriage and domesticity, by the time of her graduation Lucy had determined her future. She chose the controversial role of an itinerant lecturer. "I surely would not be a public speaker if I sought a life of ease for it will be a most laborious one; nor would I do it for the sake of honor for I know that I shall be disesteemed, may even be hated by some who are now friends." She would not teach school as her family hoped, but would labor for the freedom of the slave and the salvation of her sex. In biblical paraphrase, she believed that "while I hear the wild shriek of the slave mother or muffled groan of the daughter spoiled of her virtue and do not open my mouth, am I not guilty?" She sought "no life of ease or wealth ... nor existence of ease or indolence which eats at the energy of the soul."17
Lucy's younger, now-married sister was astonished: "I don't hardly know what you mean by laboring for the restoration and salvation of our sex, but I conclude you mean a salvation from some thralldom imposed by men." Sarah, unlike her sister, did not feel "burdened by anything man has laid upon me, be sure I can't vote but what care I for that? I would not if I could." Besides their brothers and husbands would "as quick legislate for the interests of their wives and sisters as their own." Sarah ended with an unequivocal, "Father says you better come home and get a schoolhouse."18
Sarah was expressing two positions that by the end of the nineteenth century became the most popular arguments of suffrage opponents: women did not want the vote and in any case husbands, fathers, and brothers represented the public interests of women and children. For the rest of her life Lucy Stone contested such traditional thinking about the oppression of women and the insufferable ways females were treated in their homes. She had learned both in her own home.
Clearly the life of an itinerant antislavery agent and women's rightsadvocate precluded marriage. Years before her graduation from Oberlin, Lucy had fathomed that marriage, like all institutions, from political parties to the church and colleges, favored men, giving women neither status nor protection. Yet for nearly all women, marriage was their entirety, with its incessant childbearing, running of the house, and deference to husbands for whom the fact of having a wife was merely an incident. For Lucy Stone a wedding meant a loss of identity, the physical revulsion at marital sex, and intellectual suffocation in the prison of an isolated home. She knew that she would lose her name and the good money earned from her increasingly popular lecture tours. (In 1854 she earned nearly five thousand dollars.) But most of all she would lose the ability to serve the cause of women's rights that she once likened to raising a daughter with its opportunities for ceaseless attention and worry, but gratifying, purposeful hard work.19
Well before Nette Brown married Henry's brother, Samuel Blackwell, she shared with Lucy the period's intimate female world of love and affection, with its kisses, embraces while watching sunsets, and long talks in bed. It was a world that had no need of men. "Well, Lucy," Nette agreed, "so you think more than ever you must not get married & there will be a lesson of truth to be learned from our very position which will be impressed deeply on the minds of the people as any we have to teach. Let us stand alone in the great moral battlefield with none but God for a supporter ... Let them see that woman can take care of herself & act independently without the encouragement & sympathy of her 'lord & master' that she can think & talk as a moral agent is priveledged to. Oh no don't let us get married."20
But charming Henry Blackwell with his long black hair, sky-blue eyes, sparkling white teeth, and abolitionist sentiments persisted. Marriage, he told Lucy, did not have to involve the submission of wives. Certainly he sought no such arrangement and would in fact repudiate supremacy for a "true" marriage with an equal. She need not "feel as though martyrdom would demand refraining from marriage." Wellaware of Lucy's penchant for sacrificial advocacy, Henry encouraged her lecture tours, and even offered to organize them. He would not impede what she called "a vagrant life," nailing her own posters to the trees, living in dirty boarding houses, riding from town to town in uncomfortable buckboard buggies, and everywhere suffering ridicule. With misgivings, he even accepted Lucy's adoption in the early 1850s of the controversial bloomers. Outraging men, Lucy, along with a handful of other women including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, briefly replaced their tight-laced corsets and inhibiting long dresses with more practical short skirts and comfortable trousers.21
By staying single, in Henry's view, she was punishing herself worse "than the Southerners treat their Negroes." "I don't think that either you or I should be less efficient together than separate. Above all I do not believe that we were created only for results ulterior to ourselves. We have a right to be happy in and for ourselves, if not what a stupid thing to make other people happy." Just as a doctor could treat smallpox without infecting himself, so, argued Henry, Lucy could reform marriage without denying herself its pleasant intimacies. "Will you permit the injustice of the world to enforce upon you a life of injustice?" As her husband he would dedicate himself to introducing Lucy to the love and affection of happy families like his own.22
While never offering the standard male promises of protection, which Lucy would not accept anyway, Henry intended to share her reform activities. And he would also tutor her in the "literary culture" about which she knew little -- his first gift was a volume of Plato. As Henry Blackwell intended to bring freedom to slaves and women, so he would serve as a missionary to his wife. He would bring her the happiness and good humor of his sunny personality; he would sing and tell stories; and he would prove wrong her ideas about a husband's impediment to her life's work.
Still Lucy Stone resisted, explaining in the veiled language of the Victorian that sex revolted her, a natural enough concern given her mother's mental and physical deterioration following her repeated pregnancies. For Lucy sex inevitably diminished women's lives because it led to childbirth. When the ever acquiescent Henry delicatelysuggested that he would place few demands on her, she remembered her mother's advice that a young man's vows were quickly forgotten when women became wives.23
Soon Lucy offered other reasons to turn Henry away. Men, she argued, were more immature than women of the same age, and she was, given the conventions of the age, a shocking seven and a half years older than he. She felt even older than that: "Harry, excessive toil and excessive grief gave me a premature womanhood so that I expect a premature physical decay." When he protested that she overestimated "the natural defects of [her] being" as well as the consequences of the differences in their age, Lucy repeated her life's task: " ... I do contemplate with proud satisfaction, my lone struggle with Destiny ..."24
As Henry Blackwell worked to batter through this wall of objections, she held firm, believing, as her suitor did not, that the true reformer lived solely for external causes. "I have been all my life alone. I have shared thought, family and life with myself alone ... all you are does not come near my ideal of what is necessary to make a marriage relation." Meanwhile Henry (now "Harry" to his "dearest Lucy" after a meeting in Niagara Falls in the fall of 1853) insisted that his idea of marriage was one that required no sacrifice of her public life. "I would not have my wife a drudge ... I would not even consent that my wife should stay at home to rock the baby when she ought to be addressing a meeting or organizing a society. Perfect equality is the relationship ... I would have ..."25
In the end deeds, not words, changed Lucy Stone's mind and altered her future life as a reformer. In September 1854, as a member of the Western Antislavery Society, Henry Blackwell heard of a fugitive eight-year-old slave girl's forced return through Ohio to the slave state of Kentucky. It was a time of furious contention between Northerners and Southerners over the issue of slaves escaping north. With the comparison of the recent Jerry Burns Rescue in Boston fresh in his mind, Henry rushed to board the train carrying the young girl back to the South in Salem, Ohio. While her owners protested that the child was a slave and therefore their possession, he led the girl to freedom. But Ohio was not Massachusetts. In the incident's aftermath Henry Blackwell lost business, was harassed by proslavery factions in Kentucky and Tennessee that placed a ten-thousand-dollar bounty on hishead, and was threatened with indictment for violating the recently passed Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which made it illegal to help slaves find freedom in the North.
Now Lucy Stone was smitten. As other American women looked for a display of their intended's love -- perhaps a piece of jewelry or a long chaste engagement -- Lucy Stone fathomed Henry's commitment to her in his Salem rescue. "Many who are not capable of a noble action themselves do yet respect all the more those who are," she wrote. "What an exciting scene it must have been." A rescue was different from her persistent and routinized reform activities, which required long tedious trips. "How much of intense thought feeling and action were crowded in that little space of time. What a change in one human destiny!" The rescue was enough to secure her affection and to end what even Lucy now understood as "the barren desert of an unshared life." "I do so love you," she wrote shortly before their marriage. "My heart warms toward you all the time. I shall be so glad when it becomes possible for us to be ever together."26
They were married on May 1, 1855, at Lucy's home in West Brookfield. From its beginning until Lucy's death thirty-eight years later, the Stone-Blackwell marriage was unusual, but this day its external trappings, though not its substance, were conventional. The thirty-seven-year-old bride wore a silk dress the color of rose ash and cried like the country girl she once said she was. Her friend, the well-known abolitionist and ordained minister Thomas Higginson, arrived from Boston with flowers to preside over the service. For his part, Francis Stone grumbled that his daughter thought she was too good "for anyone in these parts." And the father of the bride predicted that all would not be sunshine in this, as it was not in any marriage. A hearty wedding breakfast of steaks, veal cutlet, and wedding cake followed the service, and then the bride and groom rushed for the train to New York and a honeymoon spent with various members of the Blackwell family.27
But as the ceremony began, its alterations of standard practice became obvious. First the groom read a long protest against marriage. The document rejected all the traditional marital iniquities giving husbands "the unnatural superiority" that Lucy emphasized in her lectures, and it made the Stone-Blackwell wedding one of the mostunusual in nineteenth-century America. Henry also renounced all his exclusive legal rights as a husband and the word obey was omitted from the service. Henry gave up the custody of his wife's person; his "absolute" right to her money and property and their children; and he also delivered to Lucy the right to determine "when and how many children they would have," thus surrendering the sexual prerogatives over wives assumed by most American husbands in an era when marital rape was a contradiction in terms.28
Higginson, a veteran of antislavery and feminist crusades, placed the Blackwell protest in the Worcester Spy. Other newspapers copied it. Many responded with insulting doggerel about Lucy:
Hold your tongue you chatterbox Do let the men alone We sink beneath the stream of talk Rolled out by Miss Stone Ah would that Lucy Stone were married And had a house to care Will no one sacrifice himself To save us from despair Who with a wedding kiss Shuts up the mouth of Lucy Stone.29
Like many American women and more than most, Lucy Stone suffered from marriage trauma. She knew nothing about sex, although there is a suggestion in her family history of sexual abuse by Francis Stone of his wife and daughters, and victims of sexual abuse are typically mistrustful of sex. What she had learned was imparted by her youthful observations of animal behavior on her father's farm and a limited physiology course at Oberlin that hardly mentioned human reproductive organs. True, on several occasions she had corresponded with her evidently chaste older brothers Luther and William Bowman Stone who urged the "use of the generative organs only for propagation," the necessity of marriage for all men to prevent fornication, and separate bedrooms so that men "ceased to look upon [their wives] to avoid lust." And she had read Henry Clarke Wright's Marriage and Parentage: or the Reproductive Element in Man as a Means to His Elevationand Happiness, in which Wright argues that reproduction was not for sensual enjoyment. Rather sex, which must never be at the "mercy of blind reckless animal passion," was "an instrumentality through which human nature may be redeemed." This was not a recipe that inspired anticipation of a wedding night or, as promptly became the case for Lucy, any enjoyment of sexual relations.30
Arrived in New York, Lucy met Henry's famous older sister, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, who was the first formally educated and trained female doctor of medicine in the United States. Despite the refusal of four medical colleges to accept her because of her sex, Elizabeth had eventually graduated from Geneva Medical College, where the students, mostly as a joke, had voted to accept her as a fellow student. Like the other Blackwell sisters, Elizabeth had reservations about her new sister-in-law whom she knew, as she wrote Henry, only in the context "of the eccentricities and accidents of the American phase of this 19th century -- in bloomerism, abolitionism, woman's rightism ..." She had disapproved of Lucy and Henry's marriage protest as a "vulgar intrusion into a solemn event ... dragging one's personal affairs into public notice." Elizabeth Blackwell had another reservation; neither she nor Lucy would make good wives because they were married to a cause -- "something that commands our first loyalty."31 She anticipated that Henry would be an unhappy husband.
The other English-born Blackwells were no more positive in their assessment of an American woman they thought less cultured than their distinguished, if temporarily impoverished, family. Writing from London, Anna Blackwell, who disliked "Yankee women," hoped that "your future wife passes in the qualifications essential to our respect and affection," which Lucy with her plain clothes and plebeian tastes did not. But it was Sam Blackwell who best explained the adoration of his younger brother. Lucy's independence and determination reminded Henry of his much-admired older sister Elizabeth.32
On their wedding night Elizabeth had arranged a reception in New York for the newlyweds. But Lucy had one of her headaches and went to bed for three days. The bride reported to her mother that Henry had let her sleep: "He is very kind and good to me and thoughtful." As for Henry, no matter what his sexual anticipations, he was pleased the wedding had taken place at all.33
By the time Lucy and Henry arrived in Cincinnati to visit his mother, the bride had decided to keep her birth name. Remaining Lucy Stone, she advised Nette Brown, was the symbolic solution to putting "Lucy Stone to death" through marriage. But Henry's commonsense sister Elizabeth grumbled that "it was absurd not to take the name of the man you had chosen in preference to a father you had not chosen." Others understood. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, whose marriage in 1840 had preceded her consciousness of women's issues, had taken her husband Henry Stanton's surname, as did most women in the early stages of the women's movement. But Elizabeth Cady Stanton immediately recognized the significance of keeping a birth name, even if it could not yet be a married woman's legal one: " ... When the slave leaves his first act is to take to himself a name."34
Through her marriage to Henry Blackwell, Lucy joined a family that empowered her in a way that her own -- and indeed most others -- could not have. Her husband was a member of a free-thinking, reform-minded, closely knit group of religious and political dissidents who had emigrated from England to the United States in 1832. Seven years later Samuel Blackwell, the patriarch of the family, died, leaving his widow, Hannah, with five dollars and a brood of nine intelligent and energetic children who necessarily took up the task of supporting themselves and their mother. As Henry explained to Lucy, "My father died a stranger in a strange city, leaving a widow & nine children accustomed to comparative luxury and entirely destitute." While Henry aspired to be a full-time antislavery advocate "speaking and lecturing as a profession," he had no choice but to work in his hardware store until he could attain "pecuniary independence." None of the five Blackwell daughters married; like Lucy they enjoyed their work and independence: Anna became a newspaper correspondent and a translator, Marian a poet and the stay-at-home child, Elizabeth and Emily doctors, and Ellen a writer and artist. Elizabeth explained the sisters' ethic: " ... even the best husbands and children require some sacrifice and woman has to yield. But true work is perfect freedom and full satisfaction."35
While the Blackwell women provided Lucy with examples of competent, assertive, cultured, and aristocratic females to whom Lucy often felt inferior, the Blackwell men inverted the stereotype. They werecompassionate, sensitive reformers who married independent women and supported women's rights. Eight months after Lucy and Henry married, Henry's older brother Sam married Nette Brown, who was an ordained minister. As Henry summarized the male Blackwells' view of marriage: "Equality is ... a passion. I wish I could take the position of wife under the law and give you that of a husband. I would rather submit to the injustice than to submit you to it." To be sure, the family's reversal of nineteenth-century sex roles encouraged in the Blackwell sisters a feeling of superiority to their younger brothers. Such a childhood pattern attracted Henry to the older Lucy, who reminded him of his beloved bossy sisters. Often Lucy treated him as if he were a younger brother. "Oh, you naughty little boy," was a frequent salutation to her husband.36
The Blackwells had learned as children what Elizabeth called "habits of unconscious independence." As a member of such a clan, Lucy replaced her own flawed family, and organized her life and ideas around the personal experiences that had always been the principal source of her feminist convictions. Lucy might be a Stone forever in name, but in affiliation, she became a Blackwell. And it was through the Blackwells and especially her beloved "Harrykins" that she would eventually find the support necessary for her defection from the suffrage establishment.37
Motherhood and The Cause
The future patterns of their shared lives emerged this first summer of their marriage. Harry was often away, looking after his land speculations, selling books, running the hardware store, and searching, as he would for the rest of his life, for a stable, moneymaking activity. As he wrote his younger brother George, he wanted to make enough money "to get out of business and devote [myself] to the acquiring of knowledge and the culture of all my powers and affections." But financial success proved elusive and Henry remained an absentee husband -- his boyish promises of a successful venture just around the corner or even of a prompt return home as often broken as fulfilled. Still he kept his pledge of marriage as a partnership. "I asked my husband nowthe honeymoon is over about going to a convention. He told me to first ask Lucy Stone. I can't get him to govern me at all," wrote a delighted Lucy to her friend Susan B. Anthony.38
Following her wedding, Lucy immediately returned to her career in the women's movement, giving the powerful speeches that gained her a national reputation. Admirers commented on her remarkable voice -- described as pure and beautiful -- and her chaste, feminine appearance so at odds with the supposed masculinity of the castigated "she-men." She spoke extemporaneously, disdaining the prepared speeches of others. But like modern politicians she depended on a set speech. It was entitled "The Disappointment of American Women," and in various emanations, though with the same introduction, it focused on the social, political, economic, and educational disabilities of women. "From the years to which my memory stretches I have been a disappointed woman," she usually began. "There is disappointment in every woman's heart until she bows down no further."39
For evidence, she used her personal experiences and those of the American women she had observed in her six-year pilgrimage as an antislavery agent and freelance public speaker earning fifty to a hundred dollars a lecture. Lucy Stone's journeys took her from New England through the Midwest and even into the border states of the South. Reflecting her years as a schoolteacher, her approach was didactic; her evidence impressionistic and anecdotal. Never either ideological or abstract, rather the strength of her lectures lay in their specific tales of oppression, which were immediately understood by other women who had lived similar humiliations.
American women of another century would call this consciousnessraising. Lucy termed it "appeals to the sentiments of our sisters for the elevation of our sex." Such an approach led the few men who sympathized with women's reform to note that if women did nothing but talk, the process would take forever. But before the Civil War and the organized women's movement, Lucy's speeches attracted, and influenced, many listeners. Once in St. Louis she drew over two thousand men and women, and the New York papers commented that her audiences were as large as those of the fabulously popular singer Jenny Lind.40
At the time there was no organized women's movement and asactivists like Lucy recognized, the presence of women on public platforms disgusted most Americans -- male and female. Leaders of this early generation of feminist outsiders shared ideas and reform intentions among themselves, but they resisted any effort to create the permanent structures that in their experience inevitably became hierarchical. After working with domineering men who invariably consigned them to inferior roles in abolitionist, temperance, and peace groups, they craved egalitarianism. Observing religious and political associations as prime agents of female oppression, women, according to Lucy, were "like a burnt child that dreads the fire."
Unlike women in the benevolent associations of the prewar period, Lucy and the leaders of the women's movement met only once a year in meetings they celebrated, dating from 1850, as anniversaries. In a bow to the popular concept of individual conversion, they used the singular: National Woman's Rights Convention. In these annual gatherings, they passed resolutions that urged not just suffrage, but educational and professional opportunities for American women. They sought from state legislatures "statistics on business opportunities for women, including wages paid to them as compared to men." But most Americans in this decade -- North and South -- were becoming preoccupied with the events that by the spring of 1861 led to the Civil War. Lucy was not. "I care less and less which triumphs -- freedom or slavery. In either case all the women of the land are yet subjects ruled over by the white male population," she informed her family in the summer of 1856, that dreadnought year of the caning of Senator Charles Sumner, the Topeka convention, and President Buchanan's controversial ramming through Congress of the Lecompton constitution that supported slavery in the Kansas territory.41
In 1857 Lucy had reason to forget the women's movement. She had finally persuaded Henry to give up his Western land speculations and settle down in the East where the couple bought a home in Orange, New Jersey, to be near the tightly bonded Blackwells. She also was pregnant. Susan B. Anthony nonetheless insisted that Lucy arrange the details of the 1857 woman's convention, which included locating a convention hall, lining up speakers, and writing and sending "the call" to reformers, most of whom lived in New England and New York. Lucy declined, and so the convention did not take place. "Iexpect to be a mother and so will necessarily be absent," Lucy replied to Anthony's summons. "If you are ever in my situation, you will find that swollen feet and hands and general discomforts are not good assistants in our work ..."42
Anthony was provoked. Given Lucy's status as the movement's star evangelist, "a Woman who is and must of necessity continue for the present at least, the representative woman, has no right to thus disqualify herself for such a representative occasion. I do feel it is so foolish for [Lucy] to put herself in the position of maid of all work, and baby tender. What man would dream of going before the public ... tired and worn from such a multitude of engrossing cares."43
In the fall of 1857 thirty-nine-year-old Lucy Stone delivered her first child. Two years later she and Henry had a stillborn son, and though Lucy once had intended to have four children -- they must be twins "to dispatch matters so as to gain time" -- her daughter was her only surviving child. Lucy was attended at home by Henry's sister Emily, who now ran the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in Greenwich Village. Only after months of parental indecision was her daughter named Alice, significantly not a family name, though the baby's last name was easily derived. With Lucy assimilated into her husband's family, it was Stone Blackwell.44
After Alice's birth, Lucy, overcome by lassitude, retired from her strenuous speaking tours. With the help of the Blackwells she temporarily became a stay-at-home mother. Seven months after Alice's birth Lucy, suffering from boils as well as a postpartum depression, remained exhausted, and Harry, away again, wondered why. Lucy responded, " ... but Harry, no one who takes care of a baby can rest. I have not felt rested for months -- you may take care of a baby one day and you will understand it." Migraine headaches further immobilized her, and perhaps a sufferer from what Betty Friedan called the unspoken anxiety and crushing boredom of motherhood, she was chronically depressed with what she called the "blues."45
Henry, an increasingly absent husband, was away seven of the first eight months of Alice's life. At the time he was traveling in the Midwest, selling some of Lucy's land for a railroad project in Wisconsin that would make him rich. But the sale of property bought with his wife's hard-earned lecture fees broke the couple's prenuptial agreementthat only Lucy could sell her land. Henry explained to his angry wife that he only intended to get her "affairs into a more productive shape." He was still her "darling Harrykins," but disappointed in the marriage she had resisted so long, Lucy felt betrayed. "Will you come home Harry dear?" she wondered in May 1858. But it was months before he returned to Orange.46
Rarely imperious, Harry now insisted that his wife delay her return to the lecture circuit until his mother and one of his sisters could help out. Lucy agreed. Only a week after Alice's birth she had boldly traveled into New York to deliver a speech to the Shirt Sewers and Seamstresses Union. It was intended to publicize women's issues to working women, a group often sought out by nineteenth-century feminists. Yet when she returned home, Alice was sick. "When I came home & looked in Alice's sleeping face and thought of the possible evil that might befall her if my guardian eye was turned away, I shrank like a snail into its shell & saw that for these years I can be only a mother -- no trivial thing either."47
It was a difficult time. Lucy struggled with financial problems and her sense of failure as a wife, as well as the chagrin of abandoning her popular lecture tours. Henry's absences, as he traveled around the country engaged in a number of mostly failing enterprises, heightened her feelings of martyrdom. Nor did she provide what Henry began to call "a more normal life," by which he meant not only his presence at home but the sexual relations about which Lucy remained hesitantly prudish. Given her perfectionist ethic, Lucy tried to improve. "I am trying to be a good wife and mother. I have wanted to tell you how hard I am trying. But I have tried before and my miserable failures hitherto make me silent now. I hope to be more to you and better," she bleakly informed her husband.48
Some of the problem rested with her enforced retirement from the cause. Intermittent participation was a necessary strategy for married reformers. It was the reason that women's conventions met only once a year. Unlike the organizations of men, whose mobility made a formal structure easier to maintain, a national movement for women could only be accomplished, in its earliest phases, through letters and casual visits among the believers who were also mothers tending babies and running households. So Lucy stayed home with Alice, herdomesticity coinciding with the Civil War when the women's movement funneled its energies into ending slavery and restoring the Union. But she suffered. "I don't believe I could live shut up with Alice in a suite of rooms all next winter," she wrote in 1864.49
Henry's sisters were not impressed with the Stone-Blackwell household and especially Lucy's domesticity. They believed that if women wanted to be independent, they must remain single. Lucy and Henry, wrote Marian to her sisters, "are so engrossed in woman's rights especially in its political bearings that they are busy, restless and preoccupied. There is no home atmosphere about them. There is never the shadow of peace or domestic enjoyment."50
Lucy was available to preside over the first meeting of the Women's Loyal National League organized by Anthony and Stanton and held in 1863 in New York. There she supported a controversial resolution that, linking slaveholders and "the aristocratic interest," connected to both a system of political oppression practiced on "slaves, all citizens of African descent and all women who are placed at the mercy of legislation in which they are not represented." But Lucy had only limited time for the traditional women's work of seeking signatures for a petition urging black emancipation by means of the proposed Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery. As a disenfranchised woman she also refused to pay her local taxes, and in the family story, lost even Alice's cradle in the public auction of her property to settle the state's claim.51
Meanwhile most of the female Blackwells were engaged in the Union cause that overshadowed women's issues. Lucy's sisters-in-law Elizabeth and Emily organized a contingent of two hundred nurses who served the Union army in Virginia and Hannah Blackwell scraped lint for wounded soldiers' bandages. As for Lucy, "as I do all the work -- cook, wash, iron, sweep, dust everything and teach Alice an hour a day, I get little time." She was biding her time until the resumption of the battle for her rights.52
Postwar Strategies and Challenges
After the Civil War ended in 1865, Lucy Stone did not have to wait long. Pulled along in the trail of efforts to give black males citizenship, the women's movement narrowed its focus to issues of political freedom and specifically the vote. This new strategy did not mean that other efforts at legal equality were abandoned, but it did mean that women's suffrage became a priority. Sometime during 1865 Susan B. Anthony visited Lucy to map future plans. Then in 1866 Lucy and Henry rushed to Washington where Congress was debating the Fourteenth Amendment that would make black males citizens and extend to them due process and the equal protection of the law. Of particular concern for women reformers, the proposed amendment's second article introduced the word male for the first time into the previously sex-blind U.S. Constitution. The couple lobbied the renowned supporter of human rights, Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner, who offhandedly announced that he had been up all night trying to resolve the problem of women's citizenship, but could not find a way.
In the ensuing struggle over the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment former allies deserted the women's movement. There was time and energy for only the efforts to achieve black male citizenship, went the argument, and so the antislavery coalition separated from the women's movement. This division spurred a period of national organization among women who now came together over the single issue of suffrage.53
The new focus of women during Reconstruction was a response to an activist national government's use of public policy to change the circumstances of former slaves. Women like Stone now appreciated the vote not only as a universal American entitlement, but as an instrument of political reform. Before the war enfranchising women had been one among several demands for women's equality; after the war the vote came to subsume other issues, like the cowbird that lays its eggs in other birds' nests. As popularized for black males, votes for women would be a key, unlocking the doors to other reforms. More palpable and concrete than amorphous discriminations such as unfair pay and more conservative than demands for equitable divorce laws and a single sex standard, universal voting seemed to this smallband of sisters an American promise made by the Founding Fathers when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
In the spring of 1867 Lucy and Henry began the trips that would take them throughout the United States. Filling their trunks with 250 pounds of documents and leaving ten-year-old Alice at home with her Blackwell aunts, they journeyed to Kansas where one of the first postwar state suffrage referendums took place in the fall. Once in Kansas, they traveled all day and lectured every night in churches, schoolhouses, and courthouses, "sometimes at noon too," everywhere passing out literature. So arduous was their schedule that it was in Kansas that Henry believed Lucy lost her beautiful voice. They kept their daughter well informed about a crusade that would be her inescapable legacy. As her father described, "We are trying to get little girls made as happy as little boys and we expect to succeed."54
But in Kansas strains in the prewar sisterhood increased. Before the war Stone had opposed Stanton over divorce reform, which Stone believed connected the women's agenda with free love, but which Stanton, in a less egalitarian marriage, considered essential. Stone also argued that marriage reform was not exclusively a women's issue and therefore required a separate organization. On one level these were disagreements of style. Stone was always more conservative than Stanton and Anthony on social issues. And when Stanton and Anthony also came to Kansas, traveling about the state with George Train, she was outraged. A railroad promoter and merchant who wore purple vests, Train race-baited at a level unacceptable to even nineteenth-century Americans. "Carry negro suffrage," Train told audiences in Kansas, where he spoke more often against blacks than for women, "and we shall see some white woman in a case of negro rape being tried by 12 negro jury men."55
Ever prudish, Lucy was offended by Train's crude racism. Her husband's version was more acceptable. In his pamphlet What the South Can Do, Blackwell argued that white Southern males should support women's right to vote because enfranchising white women would dilute black male suffrage. In what became a popular prosuffrage argument targeted at the South, Henry explained: "Your four millions of Southern white women will counterbalance your millions of negromen and women and thus the political supremacy of your white race will remain unchanged."56
The fissure between Stone and Stanton-Anthony deepened. While Stanton and Anthony remained nonpartisan, Lucy followed her husband in his support of the Republicans who could be identified, however tenuously, with support of black freedmen and so for Lucy, it was the Republicans who seemed a more promising affiliation as suffrage moved into the political arena. But Kansans were not swayed by party appeals. White male voters defeated both women's and black suffrage by three-to-one margins -- with black suffrage receiving a thousand more affirmative votes (of thirty thousand cast) than women's suffrage.
During the months when Lucy was engaged in her increasingly divisive struggle with Stanton and Anthony, Henry was having an affair. The fracture in Lucy's marriage became the private backdrop for the split in the suffrage movement, a simultaneous fulfillment, in both her personal and public life, of her own suffering. In the late 1860s Henry had become involved with Abby Hutchinson Patton, the attractive wife of the wealthy financier and real estate broker Ludlow Patton. Abby Hutchinson Patton was famous in her own right. Eleven years younger and far more beautiful than Lucy, she was a member of the famous singing Hutchinsons, a family group that participated at antislavery and women's conventions. Stone, Blackwell, and the Pattons were friends in New Jersey, and Henry had briefly worked in Ludlow Patton's office on Wall Street.
Lucy's initial reaction to her husband's wandering into what was probably a sexual affair but may have been no more than a boyish romantic attachment is lost, though she did acknowledge in letters to her family "a terrible time." For a woman who detested any discussion of sex, who despised the contemporary symbol of sexual freedom, Victoria Woodhull, who believed her sister-in-law Elizabeth's writing on female sexuality impure and unnecessary, and who adamantly refused to include divorce in her reform agenda, Henry's cheating was a special humiliation.
Henry's relationship with Abby Patton was long lasting and obvious enough to draw a flurry of commentary. Lucy certainly knew about it, appealing to Henry's sister to "keep Harry away from [Patton's] office. It is not good for him to go there or take up the old snare. He is yettoo near the old foils to escape if he lets himself come within their reach ..." Of course she wished he would stay away -- "but what will be will be ..." concluded a resigned Lucy. Within the family the Blackwell sisters shared the news of Henry's philandering. Marian referred to Henry's "unhappiness." Emily wrote to Elizabeth, who was now living in England, that "Mrs. P. wants to terminate her relations with Harry." Elizabeth responded that she was grieved and disgusted. By late 1869 the news was better: "The relationship with Mrs. P. is dying out but he injuriously and foolishly keeps up Lucy's discomfort by refusing to terminate it." As the romance fizzled, Abby Patton publicly consoled herself with some lugubrious poetry, publishing A Handful of Poems in which she confessed to an anonymous love.57
News of Henry's probable adultery spread through the ranks of the reformers, some of whom were already aware of the tensions within the Stone-Blackwell marriage. While Henry had betrayed his wife, life with a woman to whom sex was a duty and marriage a sacrifice was often depressing. Given Lucy's style of martyrdom and sacrificial instinct and Henry's motive to demonstrate his financial acuity as well as his hope for some acknowledgment of his exceptional egalitarianism, perhaps his affair with a younger, more pliant and acquiescent woman was inevitable. But Henry was too important to Lucy to permanently disrupt this marriage. Her marriage might be flawed but to Lucy, all institutions were similarly marred. It was her job to improve them. Lucy's very sense of life as a painful duty, which had driven the two apart, now helped restore the marriage. And in time Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell were again "Lucykins" and "my darling" to each other.
Later Lucy accepted her husband's physical, if not his sexual, restlessness. When he began another of his failed business projects, this time in beet sugar, she wrote as he left for an indeterminate stay in Santo Domingo in 1872: "You need to be free; You need change, variety, sunshine and birds in a larger sphere." Throughout their marriage Henry was an enthusiastic missionary not just for reform and his businesses, but for his status as a loving husband. In turn his absences and business failures rendered Lucy ever more the martyr.58
As solace Lucy directed her energies to the suffrage movement. In May 1869 she presided over a contentious American Equal RightsConvention, the latter a postwar coalition of reformers who supported universal suffrage for blacks and women. At the time Congress was debating the Fifteenth Amendment, which would enfranchise only black males. A Stanton-Anthony resolution to oppose such an exclusive right led to a counterproposal when Lucy sought an impossible compromise: "We are lost if we turn away from the middle principle and argue for one class. Woman has an ocean of wrongs too deep for any plummet and the negro too has an ocean of wrongs that cannot be fathomed. There are two great oceans. In the one is the black man, in the other is the woman. But I thank God for the 15th Amendment and hope it will be adopted in every state." Her sense of martyrdom charted her course. "I will be thankful in my soul for anybody who can get out of the terrible pit."59
Voting to support a resolution in favor of the Fifteenth Amendment, Lucy accepted the argument that, in the words of Wendell Phillips and Frederick Douglass, "this is the Negro's hour." Douglass went further than Lucy, arguing that any concern for women's rights was a trick of the enemy "to assail and endanger the rights of black men." In this version of the similarities between an inferior gender and an inferior race, Douglass and some former allies of the women's cause held that black males needed suffrage for protection from white Southern males; women, less threatened and more controversial as voters, could wait. Stanton and Anthony, enraged by such a casual dismissal of women's need for security, promptly condemned the Fifteenth Amendment.60
Earlier Stone had agreed. She, Stanton, Anthony, and eleven other women had sent to Congress a petition demanding an "amendment of the Congress that shall prohibit the several states from disfranchising any of their citizens on the ground of sex" -- a negative grant, to be sure, but one that preceded the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. As late as the winter of 1869, Lucy had opposed anything less than universal voting, noting the "strange blindness" that had overtaken those who previously supported female suffrage. She compared legislators who would not support women's suffrage to the men of the American Revolution who had promised to eradicate slavery, and for the sake of compromise during the writing of the Constitution, had continued it.61
Abruptly Lucy changed her mind. "Do not let us interfere with the real claim of our cause by allowing the enemy to suppose we are fighting the very principles we are seeking to establish." Still she felt "dreadfully hurt by this new load we have to carry, and there is no need of it." Lucy even forgave Sen. Charles Sumner for his decision not to help the women's cause. It was a blow, but "we should be grateful for what he has done directly for human rights ... If Mr. Sumner doesn't want to be in this fight ... in my heart I say God bless him. Our government is sure to come around and I can endure anything but recreancy to principle." But her opponents would make just this claim -- that Lucy was being disloyal to the cause.62
In a burst of activity, in part to forget the agony of Henry's affair, Lucy Stone contacted her friends in the New England Suffrage Association, wrote supporters, convened the Massachusetts Suffrage Association, and encouraged the interested to come to a convention to be held in Cleveland that fall. Even as Stanton and Anthony organized their National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), Lucy marshaled her competing group -- the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). Henry, with all the restless exuberance he still commanded at forty-four, became a principal architect of this organization. It served as an avenue for his reconciliation with Lucy.
In 1870 Stone and Blackwell, well aware of the significance of a paper affiliated with their organization as The Revolution was with the Stanton-Anthony National Woman Suffrage Association, purchased Mary Livermore's Advocate. Renaming it the Woman's Journal, they transformed it into a more conservative paper than the short-lived Revolution. Ever enthusiastic, Henry rushed to New York to solicit subscriptions from old friends in the reform community like William Lloyd Garrison, Samuel May, and Theodore Weld. Selling some of their profitable properties in the West, Lucy and Henry purchased twenty shares at two hundred dollars apiece and five shares in Alice's name. Finally Henry had an occupation that would keep him at home and according to his sister Emily, "away from Mrs. P ... ."63
After hiring female typesetters Lucy moved the press -- and her family -- to Boston, away from New York, the home of the rival National Woman Suffrage Association and far away from Abby Hutchinson Patton. At first Henry resisted. But soon he saw the matterdifferently, especially after his wife's ultimatum that she would move without him. When his sister Elizabeth wrote to ask him his progress in finding permanent work, he acknowledged he had made none, asserting "that I am less in earnest to find a field of activity of my own because the practical effect of doing so would be to separate us almost entirely." Like his wife and daughter, he labored on this journalistic family endeavor, raising money, soliciting advertisements, and writing articles for the weekly paper with Lucy doing most of the work.64
The continuity of the Woman's Journal, which was published from 1870 to 1917, its consistent coverage of the suffrage battles and other women's issues, and, for a time, its growing circulation were among Lucy Stone's significant accomplishments. But the paper had other uses. Nourishing Lucy's need for hard work and her associated sense of martyrdom, the Woman's Journal became, as Lucy once lamented, "a big baby always having to be fed and never growing up." For a woman so comfortable on a speaker's podium but so uncomfortable as a writer, it remained a perpetual punishment.65
Managing a weekly paper interfered with Lucy Stone's few recreations. It made impossible a first journey overseas for a Blackwell reunion in England in 1879. Henry, Alice, Sam, and Nette went anyway, and Henry could only commiserate with his wife's unimpeachable sense of duty. Summer trips to the Blackwell compound on Martha's Vineyard were often curtailed because someone, usually Lucy, had to remain in Boston to put out the paper. "Nearly everybody here has quartered for the summer by the sea and or in the mountains," Lucy wrote in the hot summer of 1876, "but if we left the Journal would stop." The "we" was an editorial one, for it was she alone who stayed in town.66
For over twenty years, when she was not on a suffrage trip, Lucy traveled daily on the train or horse cars from her home on Pope's Hill to her office on Tremont Street in downtown Boston, which also served as the headquarters of AWSA. An ineffable sense of duty learned years before prevented the kind of spontaneous glee and leisured amusements that her husband enjoyed. At an abolitionist reunion that took place in the late 1880s at her home, a stern Lucy, eyes averted from the camera, as was usually the case in her photographs, stared off to the side, lost in contemplation of that better future forwomen that had been the principal aim of her life. "Your father," she once told Alice, "should have married someone less grim."67
The paper also kept Henry at home, at least some of the time, in the family's fine new seventeen-room, twenty-thousand-dollar house overlooking Dorchester Bay, and to the west the blue-tinged hills past Milton. Here Lucy came to enjoy a domesticity that had eluded her mother. Henry raised vegetables and fruit and experimented with currant jelly. Lucy cultured her own yeast, canned her husband's produce, and presided over the cleaning and maintenance of a large establishment that included domestic servants as well as the longstaying adopted and natural children of the Blackwells. In the dining room was a long oaken table -- itself a symbol of the size of this extended household. It accommodated a never-ending list of visitors -- some family, others suffrage workers, still others workers from the paper. In a diary kept "to sift myself out and find what there is of me," Alice remembered her mother's conscientious "stewing, boiling, frying, baking, roasting, fricasseeing," as well as "mama's hard load -- the Journal every week, the general supervision of the suffrage cause in Massachusetts, the care of this big place, and out planning what we are to eat three times a day, keeping an absent-minded daughter clothed and in running order ..."68
Raising this bookish, wryly humorous daughter and instilling Alice with the ethic of hard work and dedication to women's issues was an essential part of Lucy's and Henry's life. Alice, who favored the Blackwells in looks, was separated from her schoolmates by her introspective personality and her parents' commitment to suffrage. In Alice's world her fellow students were divided into the few who supported suffrage, the some who did not care, and the many who were opposed. The latter, well aware of her famous mother, teased Alice for this difference. "I do wish I could have a little fun like the other girls," Alice once wrote even as she plaintively wondered why she was not invited "to things sometime."69
At her mother's insistence Alice attended coeducational schools. Both parents considered Boston's high school for girls an inferior institution that did not prepare its students for the college education they intended for Alice. At Boston's Chauncy Academy, fifteen-year-old Alice was one of fourteen girls among 250 boys -- "a watermelon amongpeaches," she wrote. Later at Boston University, she was one of two women in a class of twenty-six. At stake in these choices was the quality of schooling and the competition, not the associations with boys. In fact Lucy's advice -- "If you show boys any attention they immediately think you want to marry them" -- directed Alice to be fearful of men.70 So too did Lucy's public attitudes: her mother's campaign to force the dean at Boston University to remove salacious material from the required classics "that makes a modest girl blush and schoolboys giggle" and replace it with the kind of expurgated texts she had used at Oberlin, her outspoken contempt of Grover Cleveland (who acknowledged a daughter born out of wedlock) as a "male prostitute," and her distaste for Victoria Woodhull's ideas about sex.71
On these matters, as in few others, Henry Blackwell contradicted his wife, exhorting his daughter to break loose of the Blackwells and their tradition of not marrying. "Be on the lookout for a good fellow," Henry unsuccessfully encouraged Alice. With his five unmarried sisters in mind, Henry worried that Alice would pass into some "heritage of single blessedness which is so unnatural and unlovely as any other kind of convent and nunnery." But Alice would remain single, living at the end of her life with Kitty Barry, the unofficially adopted daughter of her aunt Elizabeth.72
Organizing for The Cause
The American Woman Suffrage Association that Stone founded in 1869 differed from its rival, the Stanton-Anthony-led National Woman Suffrage Association, in ways that revealed the differences between the two groups' leadership and strategies. At the same time there were tactical similarities that represented a common grounding in the women's movement of the 1850s. From its beginning in the fall of 1869 Lucy insisted that the AWSA be a federal organization based on auxiliary state organizations that elected delegates to an annual convention. Such an approach meant exhausting appeals in every state and territorial legislature and a movement at odds with efforts for a federal suffrage amendment. "Suffrage," wrote Henry in a signed article in the Woman's Journal in 1882, "is a question altogether outsideof federal jurisdiction, expressly reserved to the legislatures and peoples of the respective states." The Fifteenth Amendment was, according to Henry, an exception adopted only as a result of the Civil War and carried with such extreme difficulty that it made the adoption of a women's suffrage amendment seem impossible.73
Lucy's organization reflected her ideals and personality. It would be what she was -- dignified, conservative (even if in a radical cause), and single-minded. She required that delegates to her annual convention be dues-paying members, elected at the state level. No unofficial fellow-travelers like Victoria Woodhull, the Gilded Age's goddess of free love, would infiltrate the AWSA. The American, she promised, would not take positions on peripheral matters such as the notorious trials of women like Laura Train, who was accused of murdering her husband, or Hester Vaughan, who was prosecuted for infanticide. Her rivals, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, used the trials as illustrations of the legal injustice to women. For their part, Lucy and Henry declared, "We will keep our platform free from controverted theological and social types."74
But if its support of the Fifteenth Amendment, its inclusion of men (Henry Ward Beecher was its first president and Henry Blackwell was a member of its executive committee), and its base in Boston differentiated the American from its rival, the National, in its approach to getting the vote, the American depended on the same techniques. Outsiders often had trouble distinguishing between the two. Both organizations published tracts, documents, and other printed material for circulation to local societies, legislatures, and Congress. Lucy dubbed suffrage literature, which of course included the Woman's Journal, "the best little missionaries we have." Both the National and the American were overwhelmingly composed of middle-class white women, and as time went on, neither made an effort to appeal to black and working-class women. Both lobbied the legislative committees in state and territorial legislatures. Both organized public meetings, county conventions, and lectures; both held money-raising festivals and bazaars. And for twenty-two years both resisted a merger.75
Stone and Blackwell saw the division as salutary. "I hope you will see it as I do," Lucy wrote Susan B. Anthony in the fall of 1869, "thatwith two societies each in harmony with itself, each having the benefit of national names and each attracting those who naturally belong to it, we shall secure the hearty cooperation of all the friends of the cause, better than either could do alone." Disingenuously, she added, "So far as I have influence this society will never be the enemy of 'yours."76
Lucy was too optimistic. The division -- for which Lucy was largely responsible -- led to a duplication of energies in a movement that was numerically small and organizationally limited. A united suffrage effort would have led to cost-efficiencies in the running of a single newspaper, the writing, printing, and dissemination of pamphlets, and the centralized organization and recruitment of lecturers, especially in the West. Very few women were drawn into the suffrage movement because they believed the Stanton-Anthony National organization was too radical and found in Lucy's American an alternative. Arguably the competition between the National and the American inspired more (but not necessarily better) publicity and spurred the leaders of both to try to attract new members. Certainly newspapers did cover both groups. But usually this attention was trivialized, and marked by critical references to the "hens at war."
There were psychic costs to the division as well, although Stone denied that personal animosity had created the split. Still she told anyone who would listen that Anthony was selfish and egotistical and Stanton high-hat, though bright and witty. (Her daughter, Alice, was even more outspoken, describing Anthony as "tall, sharp, dictatorial, conceited, pugnacious and selfish -- also plucky.") Armed with the searing anger of grudge holders, Lucy sought to keep her organization free from infection by "the dreaded incubus" of the Stanton-Anthony forces who believed Lucy too coldly sanctimonious to be a successful suffrage leader. Such judgments found their way into the newspapers and fueled the stereotype of women as gossiping backbiters. Even on the eve of a reconciliation in 1890 Lucy referred to the women of the National as her "late enemies. We don't know that they are our friends."77
Without the Blackwell family, it is doubtful that Lucy Stone could have challenged Stanton and Anthony. It was not just Henry's penitential service; it was also the inspiring lives of his sisters, who werenot so much prosuffrage as they were examples of independent women. In fact only Henry and Sam, who were married to suffrage advocates, supported women's rights. Expressing a judgment her intellectual sisters accepted, Elizabeth dismissed the suffrage movement as having "energy and emotion, but no clear thought."78
The Blackwells -- especially Anna, Elizabeth, Emily, and Sam's wife, her sister-in-law Nette -- exemplified what Lucy admired as useful lives spent "running upstream against wind and tide." For a woman from a troubled family, these relatives provided inspiration along with a practical and psychological sanctuary filled with resolute women who took care of Alice, who shared their children and advice on childraising, and who fostered the family celebrations necessary to Lucy's sense of herself as fulfilling the traditional roles of wife and mother.79
In time, Lucy and her supporters in the AWSA came to support restricted voting in school elections and municipal elections, and to urge suffrage on the grounds of home protection -- that is, suffrage as a right that would help women participate in such matters as controlling the sale of liquor, choosing school officials, and challenging, at the local level, legal discrimination against women. Meanwhile the women of the National disdained any limited grants of the right to vote such as municipal voting. Not Lucy. In 1879 she tried to cast her first vote in a local election in Massachusetts where women could vote for the school board, but registration officials, with neither statute nor precedent on their side, insisted she sign the enrollment books as Mrs. Henry Blackwell. Not even the attraction of casting a ballot shook her commitment to her birth name.
For an activist, Lucy displayed a curious and no doubt comforting acceptance of the dismal progress in women's rights, and this resignation separated her, in instinct, from the more impatient Stanton and Anthony. "Woman will some day have the right of suffrage and we must learn to wait as well. Round and round we run and every time the right comes uppermost," Lucy wrote an uncomprehending Susan B. Anthony who was more concerned with how soon the right would come. "If it takes forty years to get out of the wilderness we must be patient," Stone insisted. "Somewhere in the future equality reigns.Your little girls and mine will reap the easy harvest which it costs so much to sow." Even in the 1880s a fatalistic Lucy signed herself "yours in the certainty that we are farther along in battle than we were."80
There was need for patience. In the postwar period suffrage referendums lost in the five states that held them. By 1869 only the territory of Wyoming had voted suffrage and when it came time for delegates to write a permanent state constitution in the late 1880s, the Wyoming convention nearly overturned the suffrage article. By 1892 only four western states -- Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, and Utah -- had universal suffrage. For reasons of expediency (the specifics of which differed in each state) and not from arguments of moral or political justice for women, all had accepted a change the rest of the country rejected. In the face of such blows Lucy characteristically took the long view.81
The American Woman Suffrage Association achieved its greatest influence in the 1870s. But even then Stone's enthusiastic projects for Liberty Leagues to survey candidates' positions and suffrage clubs to lobby individual voters in each community had floundered. Of the twenty active state societies, only the one within reach of Lucy -- the Massachusetts Suffrage Association -- and that in Iowa did not lose members during the 1880s. "I don't think the American can continue much longer," Lucy admitted.82
Not only was the American Woman Suffrage Association too poor to keep more than one agent in the field, but in a rare statement of the degree to which the organization depended on her family, Lucy Stone acknowledged that "it was too much for Harry and me to lift it bodily as we have." With the circulation of the Woman's Journal declining, revenues from subscriptions no longer even covered expenses during this nadir of the entire suffrage movement, which had a special impact on the AWSA.
Lucy Stone did not give up. She had begun as an itinerant proselytizer and so she remained, working tirelessly on two fronts -- first to sign up affiliate societies and then to get women's suffrage into state constitutions. Despite her arthritis and a chronic throat problem, she spoke to the increasingly numerous state legislative committees on suffrage -- themselves a sign of glacial change -- and to the Senate andHouse Judiciary Committees in Washington. Alert to the importance of publicity, Stone depended on letters to the editor of other papers to convey her ideas.
She visited the state societies on which the American depended. She organized the annual conventions that took place in Western cities rather than, as the National had come to favor, in Washington. And especially in Massachusetts where she incorrectly anticipated general suffrage in her lifetime as opposed to school board or municipal voting, she spoke at women's clubs and lobbied individual state delegates, keeping careful count of the legislators' preferences. She used her traditional commonsense arguments with politicians, once reminding a state legislator that the Massachusetts legislature had brushed aside women's suffrage after a half-hour discussion, while it spent several hours debating the proper size of a cranberry barrel. Even when Alice began to take the family albatross of the Woman's Journal off her shoulders, Stone continued to write editorials and news reports for the paper.83
Well aware of her national reputation and its crucial role in the survival of her suffrage organization, Lucy Stone continued to rely on the slogans of American democracy which, after nearly a half-century's struggle for rights for women, had become tattered vestiges of her hopes. Characteristically she recalled her personal encounters with discrimination -- the time when she had refused to pay her New Jersey taxes because she was taxed and voteless and the Orange County constable responded by ordering the sale of her furniture, including Alice's cradle, to pay the assessment; the time when she and her mother-in-law had marched to the polls in New Jersey only to have the official tear up their ballots; and the time when she had invested in some property and Henry had had to sign the deeds.84
Like all nineteenth-century American women Lucy Stone had accumulated a storehouse of personal examples of the discrimination practiced against women. Such episodes displayed the denial of what she had always considered the bedrock guarantee for all Americans -- the consent of the governed. Without such a protection the whole panoply of oppression against women -- in marriage, in the home, in jobs and professions, in the courts, and even in the church -- would continue. For Lucy the ancient rationalization that men representedwomen was a fiction, writ large. Her sister Sarah's point, argued years before, that their brothers would never legislate against the interest of their wives and sisters was ridiculous, in Lucy's mind. Only women would protect the interests of women.85
A propagandist rather than a philosopher, Lucy never tried to unravel the implications of the doctrine of separate spheres that, in any case, she held subject to change and definition by each woman. She believed in natural rights, but she also expressed the contradictory conviction that women were the moral guardians of the nation. Nor did she ponder the relation of separate spheres to liberal assertions about the equality of individuals, although by the 1870s Lucy valued home and motherhood as central to every woman's life. As she told Alice before she died, "the truest place for women is in a home with a husband and with children and with large freedom, pecuniary freedom and personal freedom."86
Finessing such dilemmas, she hewed to the classic inspirations of the American Revolution. "I have no country and no hope of a country. Nowhere can I take my child and be protected in my God-given rights as a mother. I never hang up the flag as our object of veneration. I never bow down to it. I never sing 'My Country 'Tis of Thee.'" To prove the point, in 1876 she urged women not to participate in any centennial celebrations, organizing instead a women's Boston Tea Party. "The Declaration of Independence belongs to men. Let them have their masculine glory all themselves ... let us get a church and toll the bell."87
While Lucy Stone avoided the angry racism of Stanton and Anthony, she nevertheless supported the nativist call for political restrictions on immigrants -- the "wild Irishmen" -- to whom she would deny suffrage until they had been in the United States for twenty-one years. Only in that length of time could these men learn American ways and the democratic values that native-born American women had learned in childhood.
Sixty-one years old in 1879, "old, lame and blind and stiff" but still an activist, Stone never failed to answer the call, either to the American's annual conventions or increasingly in the late 1870s and 1880s to the West where the suffrage movement's best opportunities lay. She and Henry traveled to Colorado in 1877 where an amendment to the constitution was defeated. When she came home, she wrote a fellow suffragist: "I am so tired in body and soul it seems as though I shall never feel fresh again ... [It is] the tired of a whole life." Nearly a decade later, with the "arthritis like a knife digging into my joints," she longed for "younger hands for personal release from the work. It is time to rest." But even as she suffered, Lucy Stone found sufficient energy to campaign in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey, Nebraska, Iowa, Rhode Island, and Washington State -- and as well to resist any overtures to join with the National.88
So too did Henry. In the style of the Blackwells, he had become a missionary for the movement. He lobbied the Republicans at their state and national conventions for a votes-for-women pledge; he delivered his suffrage speeches throughout the United States; and he carried the word to aspiring politicians and office holders. In 1884 Henry obtained a pledge from the Massachusetts Republican Party to extend the vote on equal terms to all American citizens irrespective of sex. But when the same resolution was presented at the Republican National Convention, those who had earlier approved a women's suffrage plank voted against it. In its place the Republicans expressed only their "obligations" to women.89
More so than his wife because she was a natural-born pessimist, Henry Blackwell was often discouraged. From Washington State in 1889 during one of his extended trips came his report: "I am chafing under slow and tedious lobbying which I have to do single-handed and alone. If I leave all will collapse. If I stay, we may succeed." He stayed and won this battle, although like much of the work during the 1870s and 1880s this was a limited victory. For there was little chance that the state legislature, empowered with the right to make the addition to the constitution, would do so. As Lucy and Henry had learned, referendums were an even more difficult method of getting the votethan statutes passed in state legislatures. And as for a constitutional amendment, its support by the National was one of the tactical barriers separating the two organizations.90
From Montana in 1889 Henry Blackwell reported that "the women care nothing about the suffrage. It would be a good case for the remonstrants," referring to those who opposed suffrage on the basis that women did not, in fact, want the vote. From Olympia, Washington, came word of his "good speeches to very small and uncultivated audiences." In Kansas he fulfilled a lesser "mission" when that state's Woman Suffrage Association voted almost unanimously to affiliate with the American rather than the National.91
From everywhere he sent his love to the increasingly crippled Lucy, assuring her he thought "of his dearly beloved" every day. Often absent from Boston both as an indefatigable accredited ambassador from the AWSA and in pursuit of his fanciful business ventures, Henry had nevertheless kept his vows to be a full-time partner in his wife's crusade and to follow his wife's call "to be useful." Lucy praised him for this: " ... for the abundant and unselfish work you have done for women ... few men could have done it, leaving business, friends, pleasure for it."92
To be sure, as was the case with most members of his family, Henry Blackwell had always been a reformer who sought to convince others to free their slaves, give up marriage rights that enslaved wives, and especially after the creation of the AWSA, give women the vote. Still his suffrage exertions were also an act of contrition. "I know I have tried you in a thousand ways," he once wrote Lucy," but most of all by not being able to show you the sincere good will I have had. If it had been necessary I would have died for you at any time, but it is far harder to live so as not to wound and grieve the heart of the one that loves one. Neither you nor my mother can fail to have found in me much to forgive, but I can never forgive myself." It was an extraordinary confession from a man who was apologizing not only for his affair with Abby Hutchinson Patton, but for his absences and his failure to be what he had always promised -- a successful businessman and dependable breadwinner.93
Over the years, the Storie-Blackwell relationship had mellowed. "It takes absence to make us know how much we love those who belongto us," wrote Lucy of her husband of twenty-two years. And two years later in 1879 on their twenty-fourth wedding anniversary, an occasion on which they were more often apart than together, Lucy remembered "how long we have jogged on pulling together. Well, the last' part has been much the best for me." At the same time that she began to pamper her restless husband in a marital style her mother would have recognized, Henry became an admiring witness to her martyrdom: "You have overexerted yourself all your life. You have missed meals when in the city, broken up the good and settled habits of your life, and curtailed your sleep."94
Even as the American Woman Suffrage Association declined, Lucy continued to resist any overtures for merger with the National, finding differences rather than commonalities. With an implacability learned years before as a disciple of William Lloyd Garrison, who believed in no union with evildoers, Lucy Stone refused to consort with enemies who, she thought, supported free love, lobbied polygamists, and had "lunatic friends" and "wild alliances" with the likes of Victoria Woodhull and George Train. She also refused to participate in the writing of a history of the suffrage movement initiated by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, the first volume of which appeared, it might seem prematurely, in 1881. With a sure sense of the importance of the historical record, Stanton had earlier written Stone -- "my olden time friend" -- requesting a biographical sketch as well as the history of her American Woman Suffrage Association. Lucy acidly responded in a letter addressed to Mrs. Stanton: "The history of women's rights can't be written by anyone who is alive today. Your wing surely is not competent to write the history of our wing nor should we be competent to write the history of our wing even if we thought it best to take the time while the war goes on." Never did Lucy write the story of her organization or indeed of herself, and as a result both were slighted.95
It was Alice who finally convinced her mother that the time had come for reconciliation. "The younger ones want to unite and the old ones who remember the causes of division will soon be gone," admitted Lucy in 1890. And it was Lucy's emissaries -- her husband, Henry, and her daughter, Alice -- who over a three-year period negotiated the compromise constitution that brought the two wings of the suffragemovement together in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Lucy was too ill to attend the first meeting of the combined National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in Washington in 1890, but Henry and Alice, who was elected corresponding secretary, served as delegates.96
In these last years of her life, Lucy glanced backward and by comparing the past with the present perceived the gains of forty years. Such was her topic for the fortieth anniversary of the first National Woman's Rights Convention held in Worcester in 1890 and her last important speech. Within her lifetime, Stone informed her audience, she had seen some progress. She and other women of her generation could recall ducking stools for disobedient wives, churches preventing female members (she herself) from voting, voting privileges denied women even in school elections where twenty-two states now extended that limited form of suffrage to women, the refusal of state legislatures to protect married women's property rights, every woman's legal existence obliterated by courts and statutes, and most higher educational and professional schools closed to women.
She remembered as well the denial of free speech to women who spoke in public by those, her father included, who condemned such women as "sluts." She recalled sticks and stones and once a hymnal hurled at her back. She had seen a woman forced to sleep in an outhouse after bearing three daughters to a husband who wanted a son. Impelled by instincts of sacrifice and glad to "have lived at a time when I could serve," Stone described a lifetime journey along the pathways of the women's rights movement from its tentative beginnings among the itinerant public speakers who began to include messages to women in their antislavery speeches in the late 1840s to its mature expression in the national organizations that had developed after the Civil War. "We first had to prove that a woman had any rights before we could specify the distinctive one of the ballot," she concluded.97
In 1893, after a summer of anorexia and vomiting, seventy-five-year-old Lucy Stone died of stomach cancer. She refused the iron pills and quinine capsules recommended by her sister-in-law Edith, correctly suspicious that they would in any way improve what she knew to be a terminal illness. "I am not going to be cured. I don't want to be cured. The kindest thing you can do is to let me pass on." Her friendscame to pay their final visits, though Lucy had always believed, with the sanctimoniousness of which she was capable, that "a high consciousness of right has been more to me than friends." When Julia Ward Howe, the author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and Lucy's convert and subsequent lieutenant in the American, brought the inaccurate report that Elizabeth Cady Stanton was also dying, Lucy mischievously added, "Perhaps of apoplexy." And Lucy pondered the irony of her longtime enemy being "the first human being I met on the other side."98
Typically, Henry was away during some of this last summer of her life, though he was home when his wife died in October, proclaiming her "a lion in the face of death." Earlier he had advised a new medicine that Lucy refused to take. Rather than therapies, she wanted to straighten out their often tangled financial accounts. And so she insisted when Henry came back from his suffrage work in Kentucky that he return the rent money from her real estate to her bank. "It is the right way," wrote a woman whose will specified that Henry's inheritance depended on his returning the six thousand dollars in stocks to her estate before he received his inheritance of their Dorchester home, sixteen acres in New Jersey, and two thousand dollars. Lucy Stone left her daughter -- besides the material assets of real estate in New Jersey, Iowa, and Wisconsin, and government bonds -- a daunting familial legacy. "My brave daughter. You will go on with the work just the same!" Her final words to Alice -- "make the world better" -- were worthy of her tombstone.99
Yet ever an iconoclast, Lucy Stone had no tombstone. But her death was international news. Over a thousand mourners filled Boston's Church of the Disciples for her memorial service, although she had never attended and was, in Alice's description, "a theist." Henry read their famous Marriage Protest at the service after which, in a final statement of her anticlericalism, Lucy Stone was cremated. Making the world for women better was the secular legacy she intended. She had spent most of her lifetime campaigning for women's rights and shaping one of the first national organizations devoted to votes for women. Conservative in her institutional approach to suffrage, Lucy Stone nevertheless revealed radical instincts throughout her life. She had gone to college, kept her birth name after her marriage,lectured in public, and in 1869 created a suffrage organization that became the principal occupation of her immediate family. And besides her personal contributions to the suffrage movement, she left two human legacies -- her husband, Henry Blackwell, who died in 1909, and her daughter, Alice. Both worked tirelessly as officers of the National American Woman Suffrage Association for the rest of their lives.
Copyright © 2005 by Jean H. Baker