Lucy Stone (1818-1893) was at odds with patriarchy from the start. As a child with an eye for the practical, she vowed to learn Hebrew and Greek so she could determine if the Bible passages which seemed to grant men power over women had been properly translated.
BOLD WOMAN = A “LUCY STONER”
While studying at Oberlin College in Ohio, the first school to admit both women and blacks, she needed to work to pay her tuition. Outraged that she earned less than half of what male student-workers were paid, she demanded and won equal pay.
After graduating from Oberlin in 1847, she became a lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society led by William Lloyd Garrison. She baffled audiences by making connections between racism and sexism, speaking for women’s rights as well as for the abolition of slavery.
After dress reform advocate Libby Miller introduced Turkish style pantaloons (later dubbed “Bloomers”), Stone began wearing the outfit and, in an even more daring move, cut her hair short. She seemed fearless in the face of public scorn and endured ridicule on the lecture circuit, but eventually found the cause too distracting.
In 1855, when she married Henry Browne Blackwell, the couple read aloud a protest statement during the wedding ceremony. They declared a wife to be an “independent, rational being” and challenged laws that “confer upon the husband an injurious and unnatural superiority.” To further emphasize women’s independence, Stone retained her own name. This shocked many people and confused others. It also inspired some women to become “Lucy Stoners” and keep their birth names after marriage.
TAX RESISTANCE INSPIRED BY THOREAU
In 1858, shortly after the couple moved to Orange, New Jersey, Stone generated nationwide publicity, highlighting the injustice of government taxation of women who, denied the vote, were without representation.
Inspired by Henry David Thoreau who had spent a night in jail twelve years earlier for refusing to pay taxes in opposition to the US war with Mexico, Stone and Blackwell returned their bill for property taxes, unpaid. They sent along an explanation — that taxation without representation was a violation of American principles.
Stone wasn’t arrested, but the government seized some of her belongings and sold them at an auction. Still, she and Blackwell used the occasion to give several pro-suffrage, anti-taxation speeches and circulated petitions asking the New Jersey legislature to grant women the right to vote. Their actions inspired a number of women to withhold their taxes.
Stone remained active throughout her life for the cause of women’s rights. In 1870 she founded Woman’s Journal with her husband and contributed to the paper until her death in 1893.
TO GO DEEPER
Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life by Sally G. McMiller, Oxford University Press, 2015
Lucy Stone: Speaking Out for Equality by Andrea Moore Kerr, Rutgers University Press, 1992
Friends and Sisters: Letters Between Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown Blackwell, 1846-93 (Women in American History) edited by Carol Lasser and Marlene Deahl Merrill, University of Illinois Press, 1987
Feature Photo: Lucy Stone, Boston Women’s Memorial (2003) by sculptor Meredith Bergmann (http://www.meredithbergmann.com)