Montclair History & Heritage: Lucy Stone, suffragette heroine
By MIKE FARRELLY
for Montclair Local
“History & Heritage” is a series on Montclair history. It will be written by representatives of the Montclair History Center and the Montclair Public Library. Mike Farrelly is a trustee of the Montclair History Center, and has been official township historian, a volunteer position, since 2004.
There was a piece of paper in the Montclair Library vertical files; it may still be there. It was a copy of the back of a photo, with the photo itself missing. The copy listed the members of the Marshall family, including the dog, that were photographed in front of a house in the non-existent picture. The list dated, June 1, 1894, stated the house in which the Marshalls stood in front of at 118 North Mountain Ave., was 100 years old.
Also missing was the fact that more than 30 years earlier, one of America’s most remarkable women, Lucy Stone, had lived there. The house was in her name. Her husband, Henry Blackwell, was ahead of his time by not making Lucy take his last name.
Stone was born in 1818 in West Brookfield, Massachusetts. Her father was an arch-conservative, who did not believe that women should be educated. She started reading on her own, and became a teacher at age 16 and earning enough money to enter the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College). A few years later she applied to Oberlin College, the first college in America to accept women and people of color. Stone believed that the Bible had been translated by men in such a way as to show that women were inferior, and learned Hebrew and Greek so she could translate the Bible herself with the hopes of correcting misconceptions. She began giving public lectures about women being equal to men. Males in the audience would frequently throw Bibles at her and shout that what she was saying was against God’s will. Stone would pick those Bibles up, and read her translations of verses that reflected poorly on women.
In 1858, Stone, her husband Henry, and their infant child Alice, moved from Orange to 118 North Mountain in Montclair. She refused to pay the local property taxes on the house in Orange because she did not have the right to vote in town elections. Her neighbors chipped in and paid the taxes on her behalf, but she was persona non grata in Orange. So, she traded houses with the Judson family in Montclair, at 118 North Mountain Ave., then on a 30-acre lot.
Stone’s letters indicate that the old Colonial Era farm house had already been renovated. Blackwell’s sisters, Elizabeth and Emily, built a summer home nearby. His brother George also lived in Montclair. Another brother, Samuel, lived in Orange.
Stone founded the American Equal Rights Association in 1866 with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. They disagreed on administrative details, so Stone left the group and founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. She was a tireless speaker on behalf of Women’s Rights and went on to become the publisher of The Women’s Journal.
Stone’s daughter, Alice, who had grown up in the Suffrage Movement, urged her mother to reconcile with Susan Anthony’s group. In 1890, the two groups combined to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Stone on the executive board.
Blackwell, an ardent abolitionist, traveled with his wife to speak for Equal Rights, and after the Civil War, organized Stone’s speaking tours. He continued publishing The Women’s Journal after Lucy died in 1893.
Stone and Blackwell only lived in the house for three years. They leased it out while they moved around the country, finally settling in Massachusetts.
The house and lot remained in their possession until Blackwell’s death in 1908.