Academic journal article Historical Journal of Massachusetts

Woman's Voice, Woman's Place: Lucy Stone and the Birth of the Woman's Rights Movement

Academic journal article Historical Journal of Massachusetts

Woman's Voice, Woman's Place: Lucy Stone and the Birth of the Woman's Rights Movement

Article excerpt

Woman's Voice, Woman's Place: Lucy Stone and the Birth of the Woman's Rights Movement. By Joelle Million. Westport: Praeger, 2003. 339 pages. $62.95 (hardcover).

Antislavery, temperance, and the rights of women: the mid-nineteenth century offered a cornucopia of reform movements, and West Brookfield native Lucy Stone (1818-1893) was at the forefront of many of them. Author and independent scholar Joëlle Million offers us here not only a biography of Stone, but also a chronology of the causes to which she dedicated herself. These causes are so intertwined that one part of the tale cannot be told without the others.

Readers follow Lucy Stone's path from the family farm in central Massachusetts and an unfulfilling study at Mount Holyoke College to coeducational life at Oberlin College in Ohio. It was there that the young woman determined what her life's work would be: crusading for the full rights of the individual, regardless of gender or race. Stone returned and began campaigning for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1848, speaking to mixed authences when it was still a new and unusual occurrence for any female to do so. Though she was at times wracked with migraine headaches and twinges of self-doubt, Stone proved to be a talented and compelling lecturer. As her popularity grew, she found herself traveling throughout the Northeast and the Midwest to promote the major reform platforms of the day. She easily shared the stage with such noted personalities as William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Wendell Phillips, and Theodore Parker. When she spoke from her heart, even diehard opponents changed their minds.

Gradually Stone's focus centered more specifically on the rights of women and me issues of suffrage, marriage, and even reform dress ("Bloomers"). The work examines the status of women in that era of American culture, as well as the burgeoning groundswell that would eventually lead to the National Woman's Rights Conventions of the 1 850s. Million details the struggles within the movement by including dozens of excerpts from letters sent to Stone from Antoinette L. Brown, Amelia Bloomer, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, among others. Although Stone had been adamant that she would remain forever single "Tis next to a chattel slave to be a legal wife" - that resolve was eventually thawed by Henry Blackwell, a man who shared her sophisticated views of the equal partnership of the ideal marriage. …

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