Woman of the Century/Lucy Stone

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STONE, Mrs. Lucy, reformer, born on a farm about three miles from West Brookfield, Mass., 13th August, 1818. She was next to the youngest in a family of nine children. Her father, Francis Stone, was a prosperous farmer, a man of great energy, much respected by his neighbors, and not intentionally unkind or unjust, but full of that belief in the right of men to rule which was general in those days, and ruling his own family with a strong hand. Little Lucy grew up a fearless and hardy child, truthful, resolute, a good student in school, a hard worker in her home and on the farm, and filled with secret rebellion against the way in which she saw women treated all around her. Her great-grandfather had been killed in the French and Indian War, her grandfather had served in the War of the Revolution, and afterwards was captain of four-hundred men in Shays's Rebellion. The family came honestly by good fighting blood. Reading the Bible when a very small girl, she came across the passage which says, "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." It had never occurred to her that the subjection of women could be divinely ordained, and she went to her mother, almost speechless with distress, and asked, "Is there no way to put an end to me?" She did not wish to live. Her mother tried to pursuade her that it was woman's duty to submit, but of that Lucy could not be convinced. Later, she wished to learn Greek and Hebrew, to read the Bible in the original, and satisfy herself whether those texts were correctly translated. Her father helped his son through college, but, when his daughter wished to go, he said to his wife, "Is the child crazy?" She had to earn the means herself. She picked berries and chestnuts and sold them to buy books. For years she taught district schools, teaching and studying alternately. At the low wages then paid to women teachers, it took her till she was twenty-five years of age to earn the money to carry her to Oberlin, then the only college in the country that admitted women. Crossing Lake Erie from Buffalo to Cleveland, she could not afford a state-room and slept on deck, on a pile of grain-sacks, among horses and freight, with a few other women who, like herself, could only pay for a "deck passage." In Oberlin she earned her way by teaching during vacations and in the preparatory department of the college, and by doing housework in the Ladies' Boarding Hall at three cents an hour. Most of the time she cooked her food in her own room, boarding herself at a cost of less than fifty cents a week. She had only one new dress during her college course, a cheap print, and she did not go home once during the four years. She was graduated in 1847 with honors, and was appointed to write a commencement essay. Finding that she would not be permitted to read it herself, but that one of the professors would have to read it for her, the young w« mien in those days not being allowed to read their own essays, she declined to write it. She carried out her plan of studying Greek and Hebrew, and has since then always believed and maintained that the Bible, properly interpreted, was on the side of equal rights for women. Her first woman's rights lecture was given from the pulpit of her brother's church in Gardner, Mass., in 1847- Soon after, she was engaged to lecture for the Anti-Slavery Society. It was still a great novelty for a woman to speak in public, and curiosity attracted immense audiences. She always put a great deal of woman's rights into her anti-shivery lectures. Finally, when Power's Greek Slave was on exhibition in Boston, the sight of the statue moved her so strongly that, in her next lecture, she poured out her whole soul on the woman question. There was so much woman's rights and so little anti-slavery in her speech that night that Rev. Samuel May, the agent of the Anti-Slavery Society, who arranged her lectures, said to her, "Lucy, that was beautiful, but on the anti-slavery platform it will not do." She answered, "I know it; but I was a woman before I was an abolitionist, and I must speak for the women." LUCY STONE A woman of the century (page 704 crop).jpgLUCY STONE. She accordingly proposed to cease her work for the Anti-Slavery Society and speak wholly for woman's rights. They were very unwilling to give her up, as she was one of their most popular speakers, and it was finally arranged that she should lecture for woman's rights on her own responsibility all the week, and should lecture for the Anti-Slavery Society on Saturday and Sunday nights, which were regarded as too sacred for a secular theme like the woman question. Her adventures during the next few years would fill a volume. She arranged her own meetings, put up her own handbills with a little package of tacks that she carried, and a stone picked up in the street, and took up her own collections. When she passed the night in Boston, she used to stay in a boarding house on Hanover street, where she was lodged for six-and-a-quarter cents, sleeping three in a bed with the young daughters of the house. One minister in Maiden, Mass., being asked to give a notice of her meeting, did so as follows: "I am asked to give notice that a hen will attempt to crow like a cock in the Town Hall at five o'clock to-morrow night. Those who like such music will, of course, attend." At a meeting in Connecticut, one cold night, a pane of glass was removed from the church window, and through a hose she was suddenly deluged from head to foot with cold water in the midst of her speech. She wrapped a shawl about her and went on with her lecture. At an open-air meeting in a grove on Cape Cod, where there were a number of speakers, the mob gathered with such threatening demonstrations that all the speakers slipped away one by one, till no one was left on the platform but herself and Stephen Foster. She said to him, "You had better go, Stephen; they are coming." He answered, "But who will take care of you?" At that moment the mob made a rush, and one of the ringleaders, a big man with a club, sprang up on the platform. She turned to him and said in her sweet voice, without a sign of fear, "This gentleman will take care of me." The man declared that he would. Tucking her under one arm and holding his club with the other, he marched her out through the crowd, who were roughly handling Mr. Foster and those of the other speakers whom they caught, and she finally so far won upon him that he mounted her upon a stump and stood by her with his club, while she addressed the mob upon the enormity of their conduct. They finally became so ashamed that, at her suggestion, they took up a collection of twenty dollars to pay Stephen Foster for his coat, which they had rent from top to bottom. Mobs that howled down every other speaker would often listen in silence to her. In one woman's rights meeting in New York the mob were so determined to let no one be heard that William Henry Channing proposed to Lucretia Mott, who was presiding, that they should adjourn the meeting. Mrs. Mott answered firmly, "When the hour set for adjournment comes, I will adjourn the meeting, not before." Speaker after speaker attempted to address the audience, only to have his or her voice drowned with uproar and cat-calls, but, when Lucy Stone rose to speak, the crowd listened in silence and good order. As soon as she ceased, and the next speaker arose, the uproar began again and continued till the end of the meeting. Afterwards the crowd surged into the ante-room, where the speakers were putting on their wraps to go home, and Lucy Stone, who was brimming over with indignation, began to reproach some of the ringleaders for their behavior. They answered, "Oh, well, you need not complain of us; we kept still for you." In 1855 she became the wife of Henry B. Blackwell, a young merchant living in Cincinnati, an ardent abolitionist and an eloquent speaker. The marriage took place in her home in West Brookfield, Mass. Rev. T. W. Higginson, then pastor of a church in Worcester, and who afterwards went into the army and is now better known as Col. Higginson, performed the ceremony. She and her husband at the time of their marriage published a joint protest against the unequal features of the laws, which at that time gave the husband the entire control of his wife's property, person and earnings. She regarded the taking of the husband's name by the wife as a symbol of her subjection to him, and of the merging of her individuality in his; and, as Ellis Gray Loring, Samuel E. Sewall and other eminent lawyers told her that there was no law requiring a wife to take her husband's name, that it was merely a custom, she retained her own name, with her husband's full approval and support. Afterwards, while they were living in New Jersey, she allowed her goods to be sold for taxes, and wrote a protest against taxation without representation, with her baby on her knee. In 1869, with William Lloyd Garrison, George William Curtis, Julia Ward Howe, Mrs. Livermore and others, she organized the American Woman Suffrage Association, and was chairman of its executive committee during the twenty years following, excepting during one year, when she was its president. She took part in the campaigns in behalf of the woman suffrage