Letters of Lucy Stone, 1850-1893 (inclusive), 1876-1893 (bulk)
Letters of abolitionist and suffragist Lucy Stone.
- Majority of material found within 1876-1893
Language of Materials
Materials in English.
Access. Original documents closed; use digital objects or microfilm (M-133, reel A18).
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Lucy Stone as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.
The collection consists of letters by Stone to various people, including her brother William B. Stone; Fanny Baker Ames and Charles Ames; James Freeman Clarke; Lillie Devereux Blake; and Rachel Foster Avery. The letters provide information about her lectures, motherhood, health, her views regarding women using their husbands' names, and fundraising for the suffrage movement. The collection also includes a letter re: Lizzie Borden, with Stone opining that there was insufficient evidence to determine Borden's guilt, and a letter to the editor of The Transcript about Mary A. Livermore. Also included is a letter to Samuel May, in which Stone declines an invitation to lecture, saying that she would be glad to accept "if I could make the preparation and delivering of lectures harmonize at all with my duty towards the wee one, who always needs my care. I know that some mothers do it -- but I cannot." She adds that she would be sad about this if she did not know that her "present work, ranks with the worthiest." In another letter, she tells her correspondent, "Never add Blackwell to my name. If a wife have any character, her own name is enough. No husband would take his wife's name. By the Golden Rule she should not take his."
Abolitionist and suffragist Lucy Stone was born in West Brookfield, Massachusetts, in 1818, the daughter of Hannah Matthew and Francis Stone. She had three brothers and three sisters. (Her parents had two other children who died before Lucy's birth.) Stone grew up on the family's farm at Coy's Hill and through her observation of her mother and other women, became aware of the limited freedom, financial and otherwise, experienced by married women; this led her to resolve to earn her own living and never to marry, thereby maintaining her independence and control of the money she earned.
When she was sixteen, Stone began teaching in local schools but found that she earned less than male teachers. She enrolled at Mount Holyoke College (then known as Mount Holyoke Female Seminary) in 1839 and continued her studies at Wesleyan Academy (later Wilbraham & Monson Academy), Monson Academy, and Quaboag Seminary. In 1843 she enrolled at Oberlin College, the first college in the U.S. to admit both women and African Americans. She funded her education by teaching at district schools, performing housekeeping chores at the college, and teaching arithmetic in the college's Ladies Department. She was paid less than male student teachers with less experience, and when the college refused to rectify this, she resigned. After student protests, the college agreed to pay her and other women student teachers at the same rate as male student teachers. She received her B.A. in 1947, thus becoming the first female college graduate from Massachusetts.
While at Oberlin, Stone resolved to become a women's rights lecturer, and organized a women's debate society. In 1847 she gave her first public speech on women's rights and the following year began working as a lecturing agent for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. In addition to lecturing on the topics of abolition and suffrage throughout the United States, Stone participated in the planning of several women's rights conventions, working with fellow suffragists and abolitionists including Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, William Garrison, and Henry Blackwell. In 1853, Stone embarked on a lecture tour arranged for her by Blackwell, giving over forty lectures in thirteen cities over the course of thirteen weeks.
In 1855, after a lengthy courtship during which they discussed the idea of marriage as an equal partnership and agreed on measures to protect Stone's financial and personal independence, Stone and Blackwell married. Stone continued using her birth name after marriage, which was highly unusual at the time. She continued lecturing and organizing conventions and petitions after her marriage but was less active for a period after the birth of her daughter Alice in 1857, in part due to Alice's poor health. She increased her activities after the Civil War, lecturing on women's rights in New York and New England in 1865 and embarking on a joint lecture tour with Blackwell the following year.
In 1866, Stone participated in the eleventh National Women's Rights Convention, at which the convention voted to rename itself the American Equal Rights Association, with the mission of campaigning for equal rights for all. The Association was shortlived, due in large part to disagreements about the proposed Fifteenth Amendment, which would grant African American men the right to vote. Anthony and Stanton campaigned against the Amendment, arguing that women should be granted the right to vote at the same time as African American men. Stone, however, supported the Amendment, while expecting that its supporters would ultimately support women's suffrage as well. This did not prove to be the case, to her great disappointment. These differing attitudes towards the proposed Amendment came to a head at the American Equal Rights Association's 1869 convention, leading to the collapse of the Association and the establishment of the National Woman Suffrage Association by Anthony, Stanton, and their allies. Stone, with Julia Ward Howe and other associates, founded the American Woman Suffrage Association. At Stone's urging, the two organizations reconciled in 1887, forming the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Stone as chair of the executive committee, Stanton as president, and Anthony as vice president.
In 1870, Stone and Blackwell founded The Woman's Journal, a weekly newspaper which became an unofficial voice of the suffrage movement. Stone served as editor of the paper until her death in 1893. During this period, Stone also worked closely with the New England Suffrage Association, serving on its executive committee and eventually becoming its president. She served in this capacity from 1877 until her death.
Stone gave her last public speeches at the World's Congress of Representative Women in May 1893, in Chicago, Illinois. She died of stomach cancer later that year. She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1986; other honors include a bust in the Massachusetts State House and inclusion on the Boston Women's Heritage Trail.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Accession numbers: 490--86-M27
These letters of Lucy Stone were acquired from Paul C. Richards, Walter R. Benjamin, and James Lowe between 1962 and 1986.
The collection was microfilmed as part of a Schlesinger Library/University Publications of America project.
Processed: November 1987
By: Bert Hartry
Updated and additional description added June 2020
By: Susan Earle
The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit. Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.
- Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
- Language of description
- Processing of this collection was made possible by the Radcliffe Class of 1955 Manuscript Processing Fund.
- EAD ID
Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository
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