Know Ohio: First college to accept women

THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF COMMOTION LATELY ABOUT RESPECTING THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF WORKING WOMEN, BUT THIS STRUGGLE IS CERTAINLY NOT NEW – IN FACT, IT WAS ONE OF THE MANY CAUSES TAKEN UP BY OUR COUNTRY’S FIRST WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVISTS…OVER 150 YEARS AGO! ANOTHER OF THEIR CAUSES: THE EDUCATION OF WOMEN.
UP NEXT, KNOW OHIO’S MARY FECTEAU BRINGS US THE STORY OF ONE WOMAN WHO FOUGHT FOR AN EDUCATION – AND THE OHIO INSTITUTION THAT WELCOMED HER.
MARY:
WHETHER YOU’RE A BOY OR A GIRL, YOU LIKELY SPEND A LOT OF YOUR TIME IN A CLASSROOM – AND, NO MATTER, WHAT YOUR GENDER, YOU PROBABLY WANT TO GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL, AND GO ON TO COLLEGE. BUT FOR A LARGE PORTION OF OUR COUNTRY’S HISTORY, MANY CLASSROOMS – ESPECIALLY HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE CLASSROOMS -- INCLUDED FEW, IF ANY, WOMEN AND GIRLS. THIS IS BECAUSE, FOR A LONG TIME, WOMEN AND GIRLS WERE NOT ENCOURAGED TO GET AN EDUCATION. BUT BY THE MID-1800’S KNOWLEDGE-HUNGRY LADIES WERE REBELLING AGAINST THIS UNFAIR SYSTEM.
TODAY’S KNOW OHIO ACTUALLY BEGINS…IN MASSACHUSETTS! THAT’S WHERE WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST LUCY STONE IS FROM. LIKE MANY WOMEN OF THE TIME, SHE WAS NOT GIVEN A FORMAL EDUCATION. IN FACT, HER FATHER FORBID IT, JUST BECAUSE SHE WAS A GIRL! DESPITE HER FATHER'S REFUSAL TO ALLOW HER TO RECEIVE AN EDUCATION, SHE READ EVERYTHING THAT SHE COULD FIND – AND ENROLLED IN SCHOOL HERSELF. THEN, SHE GOT A JOB TEACHING, SO SHE COULD SAVE UP TO GO TO COLLEGE. ALICE STONE BLACKWELL, LUCY’S DAUGHTER, WROTE OF HER MOTHER:
"AT THE LOW WAGES THEN PAID TO WOMEN, IT TOOK LUCY NINE YEARS TO SAVE UP MONEY ENOUGH TO ENTER COLLEGE. THERE WAS NO DIFFICULTY AS TO THE CHOICE OF AN ALMA MATER. THERE WAS ONLY ONE COLLEGE THAT ADMITTED WOMEN."
THAT COLLEGE WAS OBERLIN, RIGHT HERE IN OHIO. MINISTER JOHN L. SHIPHERD ESTABLISHED OBERLIN COLLEGE TO PROVIDE BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, BLACK OR WHITE, WITH A COLLEGE EDUCATION. WHEN IT FIRST ADMITTED STUDENTS IN 1833, FIFTEEN OF THE FORTY-FOUR STUDENTS WERE WOMEN. THE FIRST AMERICAN WOMEN TO REALIZE THE DREAM OF A COLLEGE DEGREE GOT THEM RIGHT HERE IN OHIO.
LUCY STONE HERSELF GRADUATED IN 1847. AS A GIFTED WRITER, THE COLLEGE ASKED HER TO DRAFT A COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS – BUT A MAN WAS TO READ HER SPEECH BECAUSE IT WAS CONSIDERED IMPROPER AT THE TIME FOR A WOMAN TO SPEAK PUBLICALLY. LUCY PASSED ON THAT DEAL.
AND SHE WOULD GO ON TO TRAVEL THE COUNTRY GIVING SPEECHES ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS. SHE WAS AHEAD OF HER TIME – AND FOUGHT FOR MANY OF THE RIGHTS WE TAKE FOR GRANTED TODAY: THE RIGHT TO AN EDUCATION, THE RIGHT TO SPEAK PUBLICALLY AND OWN PROPERTY. SHE BUCKED CONVENTION BY KEEPING HER OWN NAME WHEN SHE MARRIED BUSINESSMAN HENRY BROWN BLACKWELL….AND BY WEARING PANTS. YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT. PANTS. SHOCKING, I KNOW.
BECAUSE SO MANY OF HER FORWARD-THINKING IDEAS WERE CONSIDERED CONTROVERSIAL, SHE WAS OFTEN SHOUTED DOWN AT HER LECTURES. BUT SHE FOUND ANOTHER WAY TO COMMUNICATE. IN 1873, STONE AND HER HUSBAND BECAME EDITORS OF THE WOMEN’S JOURNAL, A WEEKLY NEWSPAPER THAT ARGUED FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS. LUCY’S DAUGHTER, ALICE, WROTE FOR THE PAPER AND EVENTUALLY BECAME ITS EDITOR.
ONE OF LUCY’S LAST FIGHTS WAS FOR SUFFRAGE -- THAT’S THE RIGHT TO VOTE – AND ALTHOUGH SHE DIED 27 YEARS BEFORE WOMAN WOULD WIN THE FIGHT, IT WAS HER ACTIVISM THAT LAID THE FOUNDATION FOR THIS RIGHT AND NEARLY ALL THE RIGHTS WOMEN HAVE GAINED SINCE.


Instructional Links

Know Ohio

Online Reference Book: Ohio History Central, Lucy Stone

Website Article: Oberlin College: History of Oberlin College

Primary Sources: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs, The Struggle for Women’s Suffrage

Includes portraits, campaign scenes, & cartoons.

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