Henry Blackwell fell in love at first sight. Lucy Stone, the mild- looking but fire-breathing women’s rights advocate, mesmerized the young man. He watched her on the stage in New York delivering her “fugitive mother” speech.
Henry travelled to Massachusetts, where she had her home in West Brookfield. He then finagled a letter of introduction from William Lloyd Garrison. Thus began on an unusually rocky path to matrimony.
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. She appealed to American women who wondered why people had such concern about the rights of slaves, but failed to see the unfairness in the treatment of women.
Better Off Single?
Not only were women restricted from voting, they lost control of their property when they entered into a marriage. Marriage also curtailed their rights to inherit, to sue and to act independently were.
Stone had long ago concluded that she was better off as a single woman. Henry, however, persisted. 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.
All the while, the two carried on a courtship and an unusual discussion of their pending marriage — 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.”
“Come east, or not”
She allowed that she would like to see Henry again. But, she wrote, she couldn’t ask him to pay to travel east when she would never agree to marriage. Her conclusion: “So do as you please. Come east, or not.”
Henry Blackwell went east. In May of 1855, the two married. The wedding ceremony, though, 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 Blackwell and Lucy Stone stayed active in progressive social movements until their deaths. Hers in 1893; his in 1909.
If you liked this story about Henry Blackwell, you may also like to read about the women’s suffrage cookbook here.
This story about Henry Blackwell and Lucy Stone was updated in 2020.