Lucy Stone: Speaking out for Equality

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1995

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This dissertation attempts a cultural, political, and traditional biography of the abolitionist and feminist leader, Lucy Stone, (1818-1893). It also offers a major revision of nineteenth-century historians' treatment of the schism that occurred immediately after the Civil War in the woman suffrage movement. The issue that divided Stone from Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony was whether woman suffragists should work to prevent passage of the Fifteenth Amendment. Stone led the majority of suffragists in supporting the enfranchisement of freedmen; Stanton and Anthony actively campaigned to defeat black suffrage. The schism that resulted lasted for more than twenty years. During this time, Stone forged the American Woman Suffrage Association into an effective, politically savvy lobbying machine. Its work and its methods formed the model for the organization that would eventually attain woman suffrage in 1920. The dissertation also focuses on Stone's private life, seeing in it both the extraordinary triumph of a singular "public" woman over the restrictions of her time and place, and the desperate personal struggle of the "private" woman, trying to balance marriage, motherhood, and career. Rising from humble, yeoman stock in western Massachusetts, Stone became internationally famous. From her pre-nuptial marriage agreement of 1855 to the unusual conditions of her will written as she lay dying in 1893, Stone attempted to thread her way through a legal, political, and social minefield.

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