Lucy Stone - Abolitionist and Suffragist

Abolitionist and Suffragist

After Stone returned to Massachusetts as the first woman in that state to receive a college degree, she returned to teaching so that she could pay back several school loans. In October 1847, she gave her first public speech on the subject of women's rights, entitled The Province of Women, at the invitation of her brother Bowman Stone, to speak at his church in Gardner, Massachusetts.

Stone's forthright ability to speak out about abolition was noticed in early 1847 by William Lloyd Garrison, and in mid-1847 he approached her about becoming an agent for his abolition society. In 1848, she accepted and was hired for $6 a week by Garrison and Wendell Phillips as a lecturer and organizer for the American Anti-Slavery Society in Boston, to speak about the evils of slavery. She spoke extemporaneously, never writing down her speeches before or afterward. In 1848, while walking through Boston Common, Stone stopped to admire a statue known as The Greek Slave and broke into tears, seeing in the slave girl's chains, the symbol of man's oppression. From that day forward, Stone included women's rights issues in her speeches. Garrison and the society were not fond of her mixing women’s rights with abolitionism. Samuel Joseph May asked Stone to discontinue mentioning women's rights, but Stone considered carefully and concluded that she must leave the Society, saying "I was a woman before I was an abolitionist. I must speak for the women." May, loath to lose her powerful voice, offered $4 to speak solely of abolition on weekends, a schedule which would allow her to speak freely of women’s rights during the week. She accepted the compromise.

Stone's public speeches drew controversy for many reasons, not least of which was that she was a woman speaking to audiences filled with both men and women. Those opposed to Stone's public appearances tore down posters announcing her engagements and burned cayenne pepper or threw finely ground pepper around the lecture hall to try to drive out listeners. Standing before her audience, Stone had various things thrown at her including icy water in winter, rotten fruit, an egg, and a prayer book or hymnal.

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