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The Anti-Wedding of Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell

For Henry Blackwell, it was love at first sight. Lucy Stone, the mild looking but fire breathing advocate of the women’s rights movement, mesmerized the young man from the stage in New York when she delivered her “fugitive mother” speech.

Henry travelled to Massachusetts - her home was at West Brookfield - and finagled a letter of introduction from William Lloyd Garrison. Thus began on an unusually rocky path to matrimony.

Henry Blackwell married Lucy Stone

Lucy Stone

Stone was, by 1853, a well-established star in the women’s suffrage movement. The first woman from Massachusetts to obtain a college degree (though she had to travel to Ohio to get it), Stone struck a chord with American women who wondered why it was that people were so concerned about the rights of slaves, but failed to see the unfairness in the way women were treated.

Not only were women restricted from voting, when they entered into a marriage they lost control of their property, and their rights to inherit, to sue and to act independently were curtailed.

Stone had long ago concluded that she was better off as a single woman. Henry, however, was persistent. An Ohioan, he fervently shared Stone’s beliefs. (He would become publisher of Women’s Journal, a women’s rights publication.)

Henry told Stone that he not only shared her beliefs, but that he could help her spread her message. Blackwell offered to arrange a speaking tour for Stone in the Midwest, where he had connections as a wholesaler.

Stone agreed, and Henry went to work renting halls, buying advertisements and stage managing her speaking tour.

Henry Blackwell

Henry blackwell

All the while, the two carried on a courtship and discussion of their pending marriage that was unusual because most of their letters focused on how awful they both thought marriage was.

“Now Harry,” Lucy wrote in a letter at the conclusion of her western tour, “I have been all my life alone. I have planned and executed, without counsel, and without control ... I have made a path for my feet which I know is useful; it brings me a more intense and abundant happiness by far, than comes to the life of the majority of men. And it seems to me I cannot risk it by any change.”

She allowed that she would like to see Henry again, but that it was not fair for her to ask him to spend the money to travel east when she was so set against marriage and would never agree to it. Her conclusion: “So do as you please. Come east, of not.”

Henry went east. In May of 1855, the two were married, but the wedding ceremony was more of an anti-wedding ceremony. Henry pledged that he would not take advantage of any of the legal powers over Stone that the marriage conveyed to him. He wrote into his vows a denunciation of the marriage laws.

The two lived happily ever after. They had one daughter, and Henry and Lucy were active in progressive social movements until the time of their deaths. Hers in 1893; his in 1909.

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