Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sally G. McMillen's "Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life"

Sally G. McMillen is the Mary Reynolds Babcock Professor of History at Davidson College. Her books include Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women's Rights Movement, Motherhood in the Old South: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Infant Rearing, and To Raise Up the South: Sunday Schools in Black and White Churches, 1865-1915.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new biography, Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life, and reported the following:
The claim that one can know about a book by reading page 99 does not hold true for Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life. Few Americans know much about this nineteenth-century suffragist and abolitionist and the enormous impact she had on movements to end slavery and gain equal rights for women.

This Massachusetts farm girl was one of the first women in the country to earn a college degree, graduating from Oberlin Collegiate Institute in 1847. She then devoted her life to causes she held dear, becoming a well-paid lecturer, often attracting hundreds, even thousands, of people who came to hear her. By the 1850s, she had become one of the most famous women in America. Having denounced marriage because of the odious laws that removed women’s rights and subsumed them to an inferior position, Lucy’s mind changed after a persistent courtship by Henry Browne Blackwell. She married him in 1855. A year later, she decided to keep her maiden name, arguing that if men could be known by their own names, so could women. The birth of Alice in 1857 pulled her home to raise her daughter. After the Civil War, Lucy moved back into the fray, supporting the Fifteenth Amendment that gave black men the right to vote and forming the American Woman Suffrage Association in 1869, a counter to the National Woman Suffrage Association formed earlier that year by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Three years later after moving to Boston, Lucy founded The Woman’s Journal, the nation’s most influential women’s newspaper, one that endured until women won the right to vote in 1920. Unfortunately Lucy never witnessed that moment, having died in 1893.

Page 99 of my book addresses one instance among many that Lucy encountered when critics denounced her causes and even the way she dressed or behaved. Here, it was the famous abolitionist and fugitive slave Frederick Douglass who censured Lucy for speaking in a public hall in Philadelphia that refused to permit blacks. This was a difficult time in Douglass’s life, and he took Lucy to task, failing to understand that she and her sponsors had assumed the hall welcomed blacks. Informed only at the last minute of this rule, Lucy decided to speak but announced at the end of her talk that she would never again speak in this hall. This resolute woman never did.
Learn more about Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement.

--Marshal Zeringue