Encyclopedia Womannica

Feminists: Lucy Stone

Episode Summary

Lucy Stone (1818-1893) was an abolitionist and suffragist who fought against inequality at home and across the country. From childhood onward she abhorred the restrictions put on her sex and acted to change them. She used her oratory prowess to bring others to the cause. As one of the leaders of the suffrage movement, she played a central role in its most divisive moment.

Episode Notes

Every weekday, listeners explore the trials, tragedies, and triumphs of groundbreaking women throughout history who have dramatically shaped the world around us. In each 5 minute episode, we’ll dive into the story behind one woman listeners may or may not know -- but definitely should. These diverse women from across space and time are grouped into easily accessible and engaging monthly themes like Pioneers, Dreamers, Villainesses, STEMinists, Warriors & Social Justice Warriors, and many more. Encyclopedia Womannica is hosted by WMN co-founder and award-winning journalist Jenny Kaplan. The bite-sized episodes pack painstakingly researched content into fun, entertaining, and addictive daily adventures.

Encyclopedia Womannica was created by Liz Kaplan and Jenny Kaplan, executive produced by Jenny Kaplan, and produced by Liz Smith, Cinthia Pimentel, Grace Lynch, and Maddy Foley. Special thanks to Shira Atkins, Edie Allard, and Luisa Garbowit. Theme music by Andi Kristins. 

This month of Encyclopedia Womannica is sponsored by Fiverr. Fiverr’s marketplace helps the world’s feminists get more done with less. Take Five and show your support for Fiverr’s new store at FVRR.co/women, where they feature over 100 of the platform’s top female talent.

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Episode Transcription

Hello! From Wonder Media Network, I’m Jenny Kaplan, and this is Encyclopedia Womannica.

If you’re just tuning in, here’s the deal. Every day, we’re telling the stories of women from around the world and throughout history who you may not know about, but definitely should. Each month is themed. This month, we’re talking about feminists, women who fought for gender equity. 

Our feminist of the day might be my favorite suffragist. She was an abolitionist and suffragist who fought against inequality at home and across the country. From childhood onward she abhorred the restrictions put on her sex and acted to change them. She used her oratory prowess to bring others to the cause. As one of the leaders of the suffrage movement, she played a central role in its most divisive moment. Let’s talk about Lucy Stone. 

Lucy Stone was born on August 13, 1818, in rural Massachusetts to Francis and Hannah Matthews Stone. She was one of nine children. 

From a young age, Lucy found sexist norms of society unacceptable. She was intellectually gifted, smarter than her brothers, yet they were pushed to go to college, while she was encouraged not to do so. 

Lucy became a teacher at the age of 16 in order to save money for her higher education. Her work paid off and in 1839, she went to Mount Holyoke College. But after just a semester, Lucy was forced to go back home to care for an ill sister. 

Lucy was determined that her education was not finished and in 1843, she enrolled at Oberlin College. Oberlin has gotten multiple shoutouts this month, it was the first college to open its doors to women and to African Americans, so it was home to many leaders we’ve highlighted.

Even at Oberlin, Lucy wasn’t able to do as she pleased. She wanted to study public speaking, but was forbidden. She was even nominated to write a commencement speech for her class’ graduation, but was told that a man would have to actually speak her words. She refused. Still, her graduation was historic. In 1847, Lucy was the first Massachusetts woman to earn a college degree. 

Still, the sexist cage Lucy had been stuck in throughout her life threatened to restrict her even after college. She was nearly 30 years old at her graduation, single, and without many job prospects. Most careers were closed to women.

Still, her drive to create a more equitable society clearly caught the right person’s attention. Lucy was hired by famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to work at the American Anti-Slavery Society, where Lucy put her remarkable speaking and writing skills to good use. 

Lucy wrote and talked about abolition and also became active in the women’s suffrage movement. Her oratory prowess was so impressive that she became remarkably popular. She was soon so in demand as a speaker that she made more money than many of her male competitors. That was a remarkable feat at that time. Roles for women at that time were typically confined to the private sphere so Lucy, and other women speakers, were often heckled and even physically harmed on the public speaking circuit. 

Lucy brought many people to her causes through her speeches. Over the course of 5 years, she spoke across the U.S. and Canada. Perhaps more importantly, Lucy kept people involved afterwards using her expert organizing skills. She put together the national Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1850, and was a stalwart participant at many subsequent suffrage conventions.

Lucy’s dedication to the movement extended into her personal life. She had long refused to marry. That changed when Henry Blackwell offered her a more progressive deal. Henry knew something about women bucking the norm. His sisters were doctors Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell, who we covered in September during STEMinists month. Henry promised Lucy a more equitable marriage. The couple published their wedding vows in 1855; They removed references of the wife obeying the husband and added language protesting the state of marital law. Lucy also bucked the norm by not changing her last name. 

Lucy and Henry had two children, though just one survived. Their daughter Alice Stone Blackwell would become an abolitionist and women’s rights advocate in her own right. 

Marriage didn’t change Lucy’s dedication to fighting for equality. In 1858, she refused to pay property taxes citing the “No taxation without representation” argument previously used to spark the Revolutionary War. 

Lucy was actively involved in a variety of different groups including the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association, the New England Woman Suffrage Association, and the American Equal Rights Association. She was a core part of the movement.

In 1869, the movement was dramatically divided. As we talked about earlier this month, many suffragists led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were infuriated and saddened by the fact that the 14th and 15th Amendments did not include women. They made that anger clear and turned to racist tactics to achieve the vote for women. 

Lucy had a different perspective. She had fought hard as an abolitionist and accepted that the 14th and 15th Amendments signified much needed progress. 

The divide came to a head and in 1869, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association and Lucy and Julia Ward Howe, among others, formed the American Woman Suffrage Association. Lucy edited her organization’s weekly publication, “The Woman’s Journal.” It was deemed the “Voice of the Movement.” 

Even divided, the groups made progress. Massachusetts began allowing women to vote in some elections and in 1879 Lucy registered to do so. Her registration was denied, however, because she continued to use her maiden name. 

Lucy didn’t live to see women’s suffrage, but she did live to see the reunification of the movement. In 1890, the American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman Suffrage Association combined to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The reconciliation was shepherded by Lucy’s daughter, Alice, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s daughter, Harriot Stanton Blatch. 

In 1893, Lucy spoke at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. She died later that year. She was 75 years old.

All month we’re talking about feminists. We’ve covered feminists in every theme so far. What differentiates this month is that we will be looking at women who were particularly important to the women’s rights movement, the suffrage movement, and/or modern feminism and feminist theory. On Saturdays, we’re talking about modern feminists brought to you by this month’s sponsor, Fiverr. On Sundays, we’re highlighting favorite feminists from past months chosen by other podcast hosts we love. For more on why we’re doing what we’re doing, check out our new Encyclopedia Womannica newsletter. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram @EncyclopediaWomannica and you can follow me directly on twitter @jennymkaplan.

This month of Encyclopedia Womannica is brought to you by Fiverr, an online digital services marketplace connecting businesses with women who are creating, designing, copywriting, programming, editing, and more.

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Special thanks to Liz Kaplan, my favorite sister and co-creator.

Talk to you tomorrow!