A leader in the women’s rights and abolitionist movements, Lucy Stone was the first woman from Massachusetts to complete a college degree, and the first American woman to retain her own last name after marriage.
Stone displayed a desire for knowledge from an early age, but her father did not support education for his daughters. So when she enrolled at Mount Holyoke at age 19, she paid the tuition and board from her own earnings as a teacher; later she even repaid her father the income she would have brought to the family had she not gone to Mount Holyoke.
After her older sister died, Stone withdrew from MHC to care for her two infant nieces. She did not, however, abandon her dream of a college education. She taught for several years, studied Latin and Greek privately, and saved the necessary funds. In 1843, Stone was admitted to Oberlin College, Ohio; she graduated in 1847.
A tireless opponent of slavery, Stone traveled widely to give speeches on abolition as well as on women’s rights. The very fact that she spoke publicly before audiences of both men and women was controversial; she was pelted with eggs, rotten fruit, ice water, and prayer books, and posters for her appearances were frequently torn down. Yet Stone never wavered in her efforts. She served as secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, and was one of the planners of the National Women’s Rights Convention held in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1850. Her speech at that convention on women’s property rights led Susan B. Anthony to support women’s suffrage.
After Stone married antislavery activist and women’s rights supporter Henry Blackwell in 1855, she chose to retain her own name—a radical decision at a time when convention demanded that she be known as “Mrs. Henry Blackwell.” In fact, well into the twentieth century, American women who kept their names after marriage were known as “Lucy Stoners.”