Lucy Stone

American abolitionist and suffragist (1818-1893)

Lucy Stone (13 August 181818 October 1893) was an American social activist and suffragette. She was married to abolitionist Henry Brown Blackwell and the mother of Alice Stone Blackwell.

Make the world better.
Too much has already been said and written about "women's sphere". Leave women, then, to find their sphere.


  • I know, Mother, you feel badly and that you would prefer to have me take some other course, if I could in conscience. Yet, Mother, I know you too well to suppose that you would wish me to turn away from what I think is my duty. 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, even hated, by some who are now my friends, or who profess to be. Neither would I do it if I sought wealth, because I could secure it with far more ease and worldly honor by being a teacher. If I would be true to myself, true to my Heavenly Father, I must pursue that course of conduct which, to me, appears best calculated to promote the highest good of the world.
    • Letter to her mother (14 March 1847)
  • If, while I hear the shriek of the slave mother robbed of her little ones, I do not open my mouth for the dumb, am I not guilty? Or should I go from house to house to do it, when I could tell so many more in less time, if they should be gathered in one place? You would not object or think it wrong, for a man to plead the cause of the suffering and the outcast; and surely the moral character of the act is not changed because it is done by a woman. I expect to plead not for the slave only, but for suffering humanity everywhere. Especially do I mean to labor for the elevation of my sex. I only ask that you will not withhold your consent from my doing anything that I think is my duty to do.
    • Letter to her mother (14 March 1847)
  • This letter writing is a miserable way of communicating, after all, though I would not on any account be deprived of it. But when ones soul is full, and only a little sheet, to put it into, it is so aggravating. There are so many things I want to say, and feel with you, that I dont know where to begin.
    • Letter to Antoinette Brown (c. August 1849) as quoted in Friends and Sisters: Letters Between Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown Blackwell, 1846–93 (1987) edited by Carol Lasser and Marlene Merrill
  • Women are in bondage; their clothes are a great hindrance to their engaging in any business which will make them pecuniarily independent, and since the soul of womanhood never can be queenly and noble so long as it must beg bread for its body, is it not better, even at the expense of a vast deal of annoyance, that they whose lives deserve respect and are greater than their garments should give an example by which woman may more easily work out her own emancipation?
    • Letter to Susan B. Anthony (1854); as quoted in The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony (1898) by Ida Husted Harper.
  • We want rights. The flour merchant, the house-builder, and the postman charge us no less on account of our sex; but when we endeavor to earn money to pay all these, then, indeed, we find the interest.
    • Remark made at a National Woman's Rights Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. (1855) as quoted in Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings (1972) by Miriam Schnier
    • Variant: ...when we endeavor to earn money to pay all these, then, indeed, we find the difference.
  • Too much has already been said and written about "women's sphere". Leave women, then, to find their sphere.
    • Remark made at a National Woman's Rights Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. (1855), quoted in Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings (1972) by Miriam Schnier
  • The last speaker alluded to this movement as being that of a few disappointed women. From the first years to which my memory stretches, I have been a disappointed woman... I was disappointed when I came to seek a profession worthy an immortal being—every employment was closed to me, except those of the teacher, the seamstress, and the housekeeper. In education, in marriage, in religion, in everything, disappointment is the lot of woman. It shall be the business of my life to deepen this disappointment in every woman's heart until she bows down to it no longer.
    • Remark made at a National Woman's Rights Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. (1855) as quoted in Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings (1972) by Miriam Schnier
  • I know not what you believe of God, but I believe He gave yearnings and longings to be filled, and that He did not mean all our time should be devoted to feeding and clothing the body.
    • "Disappointment Is the Lot of Women" oration (17 or 18 October 1855) quoted in Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Antony, and Mathilda Gage, History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 1 (1881)
  • All over this land women have no political existence. Laws pass over our heads that we can not unmake. Our property is taken from us without our consent. The babes we bear in anguish and carry in our arms are not ours.
    • Speech as president of a national convention of the Woman's National Loyal League (14 May 1863)
  • I believe that the influence of woman will save the country before every other power.
    • Arguing for woman suffrage at an anniversary celebration of the Equal Rights Association (12 May 1869); as quoted in History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 2 (1882) by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage
  • You may talk about Free Love, if you please, but we are to have the right to vote. Today we are fined, imprisoned, and hanged, without a jury trial by our peers. You shall not cheat us by getting us off to talk about something else. When we get the suffrage, then you may taunt us with anything you please, and we will then talk about it as long as you please.
    • Speaking at an anniversary celebration of the Equal Rights Association in New York, responding to Rev. Mrs. Hanaford, who had asked that the assembly disavow "Free Loveism," as being upsetting and alienating to "the Christian men and women of New England everywhere." (12 May 1869), quoted in Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 2 (1882)
  • We believe in marriage for life, and deprecate all this loose, pestiferous talk in favor of easy divorce... Be not deceived — free love means free lust.
    • In an 1870 writing making it clear that those wishing for "free divorce" were not associated with Stone's organization, American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA)
  • It is not quite the same when we are seventy-two as when we are twenty-seven; still I am glad of what is left, and wish we might both hold out till the victory we have sought is won, but all the same the victory is coming. In the aftertime the world will be the better for it.
    • Letter to Susan B. Anthony (1891); as quoted in The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony (1898) by Ida Husted Harper.
  • We have every reason to rejoice when there are so many gains and when favorable conditions abound on every hand. The end is not yet in sight, but it can not be far away. The road before us is shorter than the road behind.
    • A letter read by her husband, suffragist Henry Blackwell, to the twenty-fifth annual convention of the National Woman Suffrage Association (1893); as quoted in History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 4 (1902) by Susan B. Anthony and Ida Husted Harper
  • Make the world better.
    • Last recorded words; said to her daughter. (October 1893)

Marriage protest (1855)

A statement signed by Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell prior to their marriage (1 May 1855). The Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higginson read the statement at the ceremony, and also distributed it to other ministers.
  • While acknowledging our mutual affection by publicly assuming the relationship of husband and wife, yet in justice to ourselves and a great principle, we deem it a duty to declare that this act on our part implies no sanction of, nor promise of voluntary obedience to such of the present laws of marriage, as refuse to recognize the wife as an independent, rational being, while they confer upon the husband an injurious and unnatural superiority, investing him with legal powers which no honorable man would exercise, and which no man should possess.
  • We believe that personal independence and equal human rights can never be forfeited, except for crime; that marriage should be an equal and permanent partnership, and so recognized by law; that until it is so recognized, married partners should provide against the radical injustice of present laws, by every means in their power...

The Progress of Fifty Years (1893)

Her last public speech, to the Congress of Women at the Woman's Building of the World's Columbian Exposition (World's Fair), Chicago, Illinois.
  • The commencement of the last fifty years is about the beginning of that great change and improvement in the condition of women which exceeds all the gains of hundreds of years before.
  • In 1833, Oberlin College, in Ohio, was founded. Its charter declared its grand object, - "To give the most useful education at the least expense of health, time, and money, and to extend the benefits of such education to both sexes and to all classes; and the elevation of the female character by bringing within the reach of the misjudged and neglected sex all the instructive privileges which have hitherto unreasonably distinguished the leading sex from theirs." These were the words of Father Shippen, which, if not heard in form, were heard in fact as widely as the world. The opening of Oberlin to women marked an epoch.
  • Get but a truth once uttered, and 'tis like
    A star new born that drops into its place;
    And which, once circling in its placid round,
    Not all the tumult of the earth can shake.

    Henceforth the leaves of the tree of knowledge were for women, and for the healing of the nations.
  • Whatever the reason, the idea was born that women could and should be educated. It lifted a mountain load from woman. It shattered the idea, everywhere pervasive as the atmosphere, that women were incapable of education, and would be less womanly, less desirable in every way, if they had it. However much it may have been resented, women accepted the idea of their intellectual inequality. I asked my brother: "Can girls learn Greek?"
  • The anti-slavery cause had come to break stronger fetters than those that held the slave. The idea of equal rights was in the air. The wail of the slave, his clanking fetters, his utter need, appealed to everybody. Women heard. Angelina and Sarah Grimké and Abby Kelley went out to speak for the slaves. Such a thing had never been heard of. An earthquake shock could hardly have startled the community more. Some of the abolitionists forgot the slave in their efforts to silence the women. The Anti-Slavery Society rent itself in twain over the subject. The Church was moved to its very foundation in opposition.
The press, many-tongued, surpassed itself in reproaches upon these women who had so far departed from their sphere as to speak in public.
  • The press, many-tongued, surpassed itself in reproaches upon these women who had so far departed from their sphere as to speak in public. But, with anointed lips and a consecration which put even life itself at stake, these peerless women pursued the even tenor of their way, saying to their opponents only: "Woe is me, if I preach not this gospel of freedom for the slave." Over all came the melody of Whittier's "When woman's heart is breaking Shall woman's voice be hushed? "
  • I think, with never-ending gratitude, that the young women of today do not and can never know at what price their right to free speech and to speak at all in public has been earned.
  • Abby Kelly once entered a church only to find herself the subject of the sermon, which was preached from the text: " This Jezebel is come among us also." They jeered at her as she went along the street. They threw stones at her. They pelted her with bad eggs as she stood on the platform. Some of the advocates of the very cause for which she endured all this were ready to drive her from the field.
  • The right to education and to free speech having been gained for woman, in the long run every other good thing was sure to be obtained.
  • Half a century ago women were at an infinite disadvantage in regard to their occupations. The idea that their sphere was at home, and only at home, was like a band of steel on society. But the spinning-wheel and the loom, which had given employment to women, had been superseded by machinery, and something else had to take their places. The taking care of the house and children, and the family sewing, and teaching the little summer school at a dollar per week, could not supply the needs nor fill the aspirations of women. But every departure from these conceded things was met with the cry, "You want to get out of your sphere," or, "To take women out of their sphere;" and that was to fly in the face of Providence, to unsex yourself in short, to be monstrous women, women who, while they orated in public, wanted men to rock the cradle and wash the dishes. We pleaded that whatever was fit to be done at all might with propriety be done by anybody who did it well; that the tools belonged to those who could use them; that the possession of a power presupposed a right to its use.
  • When Elizabeth Blackwell studied medicine and put up her sign in New York, she was regarded as fair game, and was called a "she doctor." The college that had admitted her closed its doors afterward against other women; and supposed they were shut out forever. But Dr. Blackwell was a woman of fine intellect, of great personal worth and a level head. How good it was that such a woman was the first doctor! She was well equipped by study at home and abroad, and prepared to contend with prejudice and every opposing thing.
  • The first woman minister, Antoinette Brown, had to meet ridicule and opposition that can hardly be conceived to-day. Now there are women ministers, east and west, all over the country.
  • In Massachusetts, where properly qualified "persons" were allowed to practice law, the Supreme Court decided that a woman was not a "person," and a special act of the legislature had to be passed before Miss Lelia Robinson could be admitted to the bar. But today women are lawyers.
  • Fifty years ago the legal injustice imposed upon women was appalling. Wives, widows and mothers seemed to have been hunted out by the law on purpose to see in how many ways they could be wronged and made helpless. A wife by her marriage lost all right to any personal property she might have. The income of her land went to her husband, so that she was made absolutely penniless. If a woman earned a dollar by scrubbing, her husband had a right to take the dollar and go and get drunk with it and beat her afterwards. It was his dollar. If a woman wrote a book the copyright of the same belonged to her husband and not to her. The law counted out in many states how many cups and saucers, spoons and knives and chairs a widow might have when her husband died. I have seen many a widow who took the cups she had bought before she was married and bought them again after her husband died, so as to have them legally. The law gave no right to a married woman to any legal existence at all. Her legal existence was suspended during marriage. She could neither sue nor be sued. If she had a child born alive the law gave her husband the use of all her real estate as long as he should live, and called it by the pleasant name of "the estate by courtesy." When the husband died the law gave the widow the use of one-third of the real estate belonging to him, and it was called the "widow's encumbrance."
  • While the law dealt thus with her in regard to her property, it dealt still more hardly with her in regard to her children. No married mother could have any right to her child, and in most of the states of the Union that is the law to-day. But the law's in regard to the personal and property rights of women have been greatly changed and improved, and we are very grateful to the men who have done it.
  • By what toil and fatigue and patience and strife and the beautiful law of growth has all this been wrought? These things have not come of themselves. They could not have occurred except as the great movement for women has brought them out and about. They are part of the eternal order, and they have come to stay. Now all we need is to continue to speak the truth fearlessly, and we shall add to our number those who will turn the scale to the side of equal and full justice in all things.

Quotes about Stone

  • I never saw that great woman, Mary Wollstonecraft, but I l have read her eloquent and unanswerable arguments in behalf of the liberty of womankind. I have met and known most of the progressive women who came after her — Lucretia Mott, the Grimké sisters, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone — a long galaxy of great women. I have heard them speak, saying in only slightly different phrases exactly what I heard these newer advocates of the cause say at these meetings. Those older women have gone on and most of those who work with me in the early years have gone. I am here for a little time only and then my place will be filled as theirs was filled. The fight must not cease; you must see that it does not stop. There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause — I wish I could name every one — but with such women consecrating their lives, failure is impossible!
    • Susan B. Anthony speech February 15, 1906 — 38th Annual Convention, National American Woman Suffrage Association, Baltimore MD
  • Mrs. R. (Ernestine Rose) and myself were talking of the know nothing organizations [the anti-immigrant American Party], when she criticized Lucy Stone and Wendell Philips with regard to their feelings toward foreigners. Said she had heard them both express themselves in terms of prejudice against granting to foreigners the rights of Citizenship.
    • Susan B. Anthony 1854 letter in Mistress of Herself: Speeches and Letters of Ernestine Rose edited by Paula Doress-Worters (2008)
  • Lucy Stone came closest to expressing the dilemma confronting the men and women who debated this issue [the 15th Amendment], and a dilemma it was, for she could not resolve the question of priority either: "Mrs. Stanton will, of course, advocate the precedence of her sex, and Mr. Douglass will strive for the first position for his, and both are perhaps right. If it be true that the government derives its authority from the consent of the governed, we are safe in trusting that principle to the uttermost. If one has a right to say that you cannot read and therefore cannot vote, then it may be said that you are a woman and therefore can not vote. We are lost if we turn away from the middle principle and argue for one class....There are two great oceans; in the one is the black man, and in the other is woman. But I thank God for the XV Amendment, and hope that it will be adopted in every State. I will be thankful in my soul if any body can get out of this terrible pit. But I believe that the safety of the government would be more promoted by the admission of woman as an element of restoration and harmony than the negro. I believe that the influence of woman will save the country before every other power”...Precisely because passage of the Fifteenth Amendment was intended to advance the cause of Afro-American freedom, it inevitably would have rebounded to the benefit of woman, but only a class-conscious element could have seen that point in 1869. Douglass and Stone came closest to understanding it, but neither one could develop an analysis that did not rest upon making one oppression more important than the other.
    • Bettina Aptheker Woman's Legacy: Essays on Race, Sex, and Class in American History (1982)
  • I remember always how beautiful and how heavenly sweet and splendid was our best woman, Lucy Stone, the ornament of the human race.
  • One thing causes me sorrow. It is the thought that the name of Lucy Stone, so often mentioned in her Journal, is known to few persons, and that the young generation pronounce that venerable name only by heart, without understanding how great and holy it is...You have no right to leave the world without giving it the biography of your noble and beautiful mother. You have no right to rob posterity of such a treasure. Humanity is not yet too rich in beautiful examples not to show them to us as largely as possible. We need to have before us such images as can inspire us, teach us.
  • On another occasion, I returned to Boston, where Cell 16 had fulfilled one of my dreams by organizing a forum in historic Fannueil Hall in old Boston. In that hall, Lucy Stone, the Grimké sisters, Sojourner Truth, William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, and Frederick Douglass had held antislavery and profeminist meetings during the decades before the Civil War. Their legacy had motivated me to move to Boston to launch female liberation.
  • In all action taken under her supervision, Mrs. Stone was most careful that the main issue should be constantly presented and kept in view. While welcoming every reform which gave evidence of the ethical progress of the community, she yet held to woman suffrage, pure and simple, as the first condition upon which the new womanhood should base itself. Efforts were often made to entangle suffrage with the promise of endless reforms in various directions, but firm as Cato, who always repeated his words that Carthage should be destroyed, Lucy Stone always asked for suffrage because it is right and just that women should have it...What had she to work with? A silver voice, a winning smile, the great gift of a persuasive utterance. What had she to work from? A deep and abiding faith in divine justice and in man’s ability to follow its laws and to execute its decrees...Here she was still debarred the right to cast her ballot at the polls, but lo, in the blue urn of heaven her life was received, one glowing and perfect vote for the rights of women, for the good of humanity, for the Kingdom of god on earth.
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Bloomer, Carrie Nation, Frances Willard, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, and the later suffragists of whom she [her mother] was one. These courageous women set a pattern not understood yet, standing in their prim strength, in their sweetness and sobriety against cruel ridicule, moral censure, charges of insanity; for there is no cruelty like that of the oppressor who feels his loss of the bit on those it has been his gain to oppress. "Pine knots as we are," Susan Anthony said. They used the only means open to them - they became orators when it was considered immoral for a woman to speak in public; if she went to meetings she was only to listen and learn. But they could use their constitutional right of petition, and they could tramp up and down, getting signatures for the right to work, to get a divorce, to speak in public, to vote.
  • Through the Quakers, who believed in equality for women, I first came into touch with the woman suffrage movement. I began to be very much interested in the question, especially after reading about Lucy Stone, one of the earliest fighters against Negro slavery, and a leader for many years in the struggle for woman's suffrage.
  • I have half-believed for a long time that you were preparing for a public speaker, though I hoped I might be mistaken. Not that I think I wrong in itself, but because I think it an employment a great many grades below, what I believe my only and dearly loved sister qualified to engage in. 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 man. Now my sister I don't believe woman is groaning under half so heavy a yoke of bondage as you imagine. I am sure I do 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. I know there is a distinction made in the wages of males and females when they perform the same labor, this I think is unjust, and it is the only thing in which woman is oppressed, that I know of, but women have no one to blame, but themselves in this matter. If as a general thing they had qualified themselves, as men have they would command the same price, but they have not, and the few who have are obliged to suffer on that account. I think my sister if you would spend the remainder of your life in educating our sex, you would do afar greater good than you will if you spend your noble energies in forever hurling "back the insults and indignities that men heap upon us." This I am sure you can never do "by the grace of God" for it is entirely contrary to his spirit and teachings. My sister commit your ways unto the Lord, and he will direct your steps.
    • Letter from Lucy's sister, Sarah Stone (28 November 1846)
  • Now Miss Lucy, you will hear what Mother thinks about your Public Speaking. Mother said she had rather you would marry and have a pair [of] twin babies every year. She did not say how many years. Mother cannot bear to think of your Preaching or Lecturing. She thinks it is a wrong course for you to take, says if you go to Lecturing you will fix it so you can’t keep school. Mother wants you should Teach, she thinks you would do the most good that way. You will want to know [my] mind. I don’t know what to tell you. You know it will make much talk in our quarter of the World. You will do that which seems right in your own eyes. I suppose, to be honest, I like mother’s plan better than yours. You are of age to [do] that which you think is your duty. Mother says she cannot find no place where Christ ever sent Women to Preach. We shall want to hear from you as soon as you get this, you will write what you think about Mother’s plan.
    • Letter from Lucy’s father, Francis Stone
  • The Bible says, “Let your women keep silence.” It is flying in the face of Providence!
    • Letter from Lucy’s mother, Hannah Stone
  • If you think you have got brass enough, and can do more good by giving public lectures than any other way, I say go to it. But Mother doesn’t like the idea.
    • Letter from Lucy’s brother, Frank Stone; to which his wife added a postscript: Lucy, if there should be any probability of your changing your mind, I hope you will let Mother Stone know it the first thing, for she feels dreadfully about it. Mother wants you to think carefully of it, and see if you cannot do more good teaching than by lecturing. And if you think you must lecture, she wants to know if you don’t think you could do more good by going from house to house...
  • I believe Sarah said in her last letter that if you intend lecturing she hoped you would not come into this State. I wish you to do what you think is your duty. If you violate your sense of duty to please your friends, you will lose more than you will gain.
    • Letter from Lucy’s brother, Bowman Stone

Lucy Stone: Pioneer of Women's Rights (1930)

A biography written by her daughter Alice Stone Blackwell
  • At the low wages then paid to women, it took Lucy nine years to save up money enough to enter college. There was no difficulty as to the choice of an alma mater. There was only one college that admitted women.
  • The young men had to hold debates as part of their work in rhetoric, and the young women were required to be present, for an hour and a half every week, in order to help form an audience for the boys, but were not allowed to take part.
  • A few of the young women, led by Lucy, organized the first debating society ever formed among college girls. At first they held their meetings secretly in the woods, with sentinels on the watch to give warming of intruders. When the weather grew colder, Lucy asked an old colored woman who owned a small house, the mother of one of her colored pupils, to let them have the use of her parlor. At first she was doubtful, fearing that the meetings might be a cover for flirtation; but when she found that the debating society was made up of girls only, she decided that it must be an innocent affair, and gave her consent. Her house was on the outskirts of the town, and the girls came one or two at a time, so as not to attract attention. Lucy opened the first formal meeting with the following statement:
    "We shall leave this college with the reputation of a thorough collegiate course, yet not one of us has received any rhetorical or elocutionary training. Not one of us could state a question or argue it in successful debate. For this reason I have proposed the formation of this association."
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