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Progress, 1818-1918


Here is a nice letter showing how women’s rights improved in the 100 years since the birth of Lucy Stone (1818-1893). Her daughter, Alice Stone Blackwell, wrote this letter in 1918. Two weeks later, a luncheon was held on August 13 in Boston to celebrate the birth of Lucy Stone.


Alice Stone Blackwell, “Changed World for Women: Reflections on the Birthday of Lucy Stone,” letter to editor of Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 4, 1918, 14.


Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle:


Women all over the country will celebrate on August 13 the 100th birthday of Lucy Stone.


A Massachusetts farmer’s daughter, she has been called “the morning star of the woman’s rights movement.” She began her public work for equal suffrage five years before Susan B. Anthony and lectured all up and down the land to immense audiences, drawn by curiosity, to see such a novelty as a woman speaker. She met ridicule and opposition, but largely disarmed it by her sweet voice, her womanly gentleness and her almost magical eloquence.


When she was born there were no free public high schools for girls; they were not admitted to college or to the professions. Public opinion forbade women to speak, ridiculed them if they wrote for publication and limited them to a very few ill-paid occupations.


There were almost no women’s organizations. In her girlhood it was thought unwomanly even to join a temperance society, and the Anti-Slavery Association was split in two because a woman was appointed on a committee. All a wife’s property and earnings belonged to her husband. In most States he had the legal right to beat her, provided the stick were no thicker than his thumb.


The world for women has been revolutionized, largely through the efforts of Lucy Stone and her co-workers. She was the first Massachusetts woman to take a college degree (at Oberlin, Ohio, in 1847). Her husband’s sister, Elizabeth Blackwell, was the first woman to take a medical degree (in 1849), and when she started practice in New York City she had to buy a house because no respectable boarding house would take in a woman doctor. Another sister-in-law, the Rev. Antoinette Brown Blackwell, D. D., was the first woman to be ordained a minister (in 1853). Now the United States census shows more than 5,000 women doctors and more than 3,000 women ministers and preachers; while the “sweet girl graduates” are like the sands of the sea. Then no woman could vote, even for school committee. Now women have full suffrage throughout more than half the territory of the United States. Verily, the world moves!


Alice Stone Blackwell

Chilmark, Mass., July 31, 1918

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