Lucy Stone was a leading US suffragist and abolitionist who dedicated her life to battling inequality on all fronts.
Stone began to fight against sexism from a young age, she was determined to go to college, even though this was not at all common at the time. She learnt Hebrew and Greek so that she could see for herself whether or not passages in the Bible that seemed to give man dominion over woman had been properly translated. Stone was the first Massachusetts woman to earn a college degree, but was told she would not be able to give a commencement speech but would be required to write one for a man to read for her. She declined.
After graduation, Stone became a lecturer for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, where she soon out-earned most of the male lecturers. Stone was able to expand her campaigning to fight for women’s rights. In 1850, she helped organise the Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1855, Stone married fellow Anti-Slavery campaigner, Henry B. Blackwell but defied convention by both refusing to change her name, and writing her own vows so that they omitted the reference to wifely obedience and included a protest against marital law.
In 1858, Stone refused to pay her property taxes as a protest under the principle of “no taxation without representation”. During the Civil War, she supported the Women’s National Loyal League founded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. After the war, she moved to Kansas to fight for women’s suffrage, serving as president of the New Jersey Women Suffrage Association and helped organise the New England association while also serving on the executive committee of the American Equal Rights Association.
In 1869, Stone and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and others disagreed over the passage of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, which granted voting rights to black men but not to women. Stone wanted to accept this, while continuing to work for women’s suffrage but the others did not agree. Stanton & Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), while Stone formed the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). In 1879, she registered to vote in Massachusetts as women’s suffrage was allowed in some local elections but she was removed from the electoral rolls as she did not use her husband’s surname. Stone lived to see the organisations unite, helped by her daughter Alice Blackwell. She then served as chairman of the executive board of the merged National American Woman Suffrage Association.