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Know Ohio: Women's Rights Activist Lucy Stone

Lucy Stone was a woman ahead of her time! She graduated from Oberlin College in 1847, which was one of the only institutions to admit women at the time, and went on to found a pro-women newspaper and fight for women's rights.

Class Discussion Questions: 

1) Create a poster advertising a movie telling the story of Lucy Stone.

2) Pretend you are Lucy Stone. Write the first five lines of the speech she was invited to write for Oberlin College.

Read the Script: 

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 1800s, 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 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 Shipherd established Oberlin College to provide both men and women, black or white, with a college education. When it first admitted students in 1833, 15 of the 44 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 for a woman to speak publicly. 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 publicly, 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 lectures, but she found another way to communicate. In 1873, Stone and her husband became the 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 bites was for  suffrage — that's the right to vote. And although she died 27 years before women 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.