Letters of Henry Browne Blackwell, 1869-1892
Handwritten letters of Henry Browne Blackwell.
Language of Materials
Materials in English.
Access. Originals closed; use digital images.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright. Papers created by Henry Browne Blackwell are in the public domain.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.
Collection consists of two handwritten letters from Henry Browne Blackwell concerning a poll tax for women and financial matters pertaining to Susan B. Anthony.
Suffragist and businessman Henry Browne Blackwell was born in 1825, in Bristol, Gloucestershire, England, the son of Samuel Blackwell, a sugar refiner, and Hannah Lane Blackwell. He had eight siblings. Samuel Blackwell was an abolitionist and also believed in the equal education of women, as well as in the importance of self improvement and working for social change. These qualities informed the lives of his children. Blackwell's sisters Elizabeth (1821-1910) and Emily (1826-1910) were the first and third women respectively to earn medical degrees in the United States.
In 1832, the Blackwell family emigrated to the United States, settling first in New York City, where Samuel Blackwell established a sugar refinery, and then in Jersey City. In 1837 a fire destroyed the refinery and the impoverished family moved to Cincinnati, where Samuel Blackwell planned to found another refinery. However, he died soon after their arrival. Blackwell's mother, aunt, and sisters opened a school, while Henry and his brother Samuel found jobs as clerks. Blackwell studied at Kemper College in St. Louis, with the intention of becoming a lawyer, but due to financial difficulties he could not continue his studies. In the mid-1840s he became a partner in a flour mill business, managing three mills. This proved profitable, though his next venture, sugar refining, was not a success. In 1850, Blackwell became the traveling partner in a hardware business.
Blackwell met suffragist Lucy Stone in 1853 and arranged a lengthy lecture tour for her. Two years later, 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 kept her birth name after marriage, which was highly unusual at the time. Their daughter, Alice, was born in 1857.
Both Blackwell and Stone were skilled orators, and Blackwell, in addition to arranging further lecture tours for Stone, sometimes lectured with her. As her health became frailer and required her to remain at home, he embarked on solo lecture tours, speaking in favor of universal suffrage. In 1866, the couple 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. Blackwell served as the organization's secretary during its three-year tenure.
Differing attitudes towards the proposed 15th Amendment (granting the African American men the right to vote) came to a head at the Association's 1869 convention, leading to the collapse of the Association and the establishment of the National Woman Suffrage Association by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and their allies. Stone and Blackwell, with Julia Ward Howe and other associates, founded the American Woman Suffrage Association, with Blackwell elected recording secretary and later serving a term as president. In late 1868, Blackwell and Stone helped organize the New England Woman Suffrage Association and state organizations in Rhode Island and New Hampshire. The couple founded the Woman's Journal in 1870; this weekly newspaper became an unofficial voice of the suffrage movement. Blackwell acted as an editor of the journal until his death. At Stone's urging, the National and American suffrage associations reconciled in 1887, forming the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Stone as chair of the executive committee, Stanton as president, Anthony as vice president, and Blackwell as chair of the Committee on Presidential Suffrage.
In 1856, Blackwell sold his interest in the hardware company and began working as a traveling salesman for C. M. Saxton and Company, publisher of agricultural books. He also worked as a bookkeeper for a steamship line and a sugar refinery, and as a land agent. In 1859, Blackwell opened a real estate business and by 1870 land sales and rental income had provided the family with an income sufficient for their needs. He was then able to devote himself more fully to progressive causes. As his father had done earlier in the decade, he experimented with the use of beet sugar as a substitute for cane sugar, with the goal of combating slavery in the West Indies. With this aim, he established the Maine Sugar Beet Company in 1878 but the business did not prove to be sustainable.
Stone died in 1893 and Blackwell died of inflammation of the bowels in 1909.
Updated and additional description added: October 2020
By: Susan Earle
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- Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
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