Document 1: Lucy Stone to Antoinette Brown Blackwell,
22 March 1870 1

Font size: AAA


This letter is from a collection of correspondence between Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown Blackwell2 spanning the years 1846-1893. Written in 1870, the letter provides insight into the consequences of the tensions among organizational leaders that led to the fragmentation of the woman suffrage movement. The controversy over the Fifteenth Amendment emphasized an irreconcilable difference of opinion between abolitionist suffragists, Stone and Blackwell, and suffragists, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who believed in an exclusively female-led movement. The result was the disintegration of the American Equal Rights Association and the formation of two new groups, the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association.3 From this letter, it is clear that Stone was a proponent of the separation between the two groups, and committed to preserving a suffragist movement dedicated to universal suffrage, not just that for women.

Document Text:

Boston, Mar. 22 1870

Dear Nettee

Theodore Tilton is making a great effort to "Consolidate["] the Equal rights, National and American Woman Suffrage Associations.4

There is an executive Com. meeting of the American Equal rights soc. on Thursday, next (Mar. 42) to vote the Equal rights soc. into National societies for woman are in existence, we think it much better to drop the Equal rights soc. If all the members of the Committee meet next Thursday, at 76 Columbia St. Brooklyn-- we can carry this, and save our good old Equal rights soc. from being smirched, by an Alliance with the National soc. which will be done, if we are not there. Now can you not come up, even at come inconvenience, to the meeting on Thursday, to give a last vote?

It will give a good chance too, to talk over many other things of family, and friendly interest--Do come Nettee.

Mr. Tilton has also sent out a circular, asking a "conference meeting"-- Three from Mrs. Stantons soc. Three from our soc. and three, whom the Signers of the Call, for a conference will chose, to unite all the old friends and to unite the National and Cleveland societies.5

We have private advices, the object is, to make Mrs. Mott6 Prest. of the soc. which unites both, and Mr. Beecher Vice Prest.7 Of course, Mrs. Mott, to resign, and nominate Mrs. Stanton as her successor--

Strain a point Nettee, and come on to N. York-- Thursday Mar. 24--

With much love
Lucy Stone

P.S. You know, you are one of the Executive Com. of the Equal Right Association and your vote may turn the scale.8 Come so as to meet us at No. 136 Hicks St Brooklyn at 2 o'clock for Conference.

Thee meeting is at 4. P.M.

[1] Document transcribed by Carol Lasser and Marlene Deahl Merrill. (Carol Lasser and Marlene Deahl Merrill, Friends and Sisters: Letters between Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown Blackwell, 1846-93 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 177.) Annotations by Taylor Greenthal.

[2] Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825-1921) was a friend of Lucy Stone's from their time together as students at Oberlin College. Blackwell was the first woman to become an ordained minister in the United States, and was an active abolitionist and women's rights activist, working closely with Stone for much of her career. (Lasser and Merrill, Friends and Sisters, xviii-xix.)

[3] The American Equal Rights Association (AERA) was founded in 1866 by Lucy Stone, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony as an organization dedicated to universal suffrage regardless of race or gender. In 1867, tensions between members began to emerge when Stanton and Anthony received funds from a notoriously racist patron, alienating abolitionist members. Tensions reached a boiling point in 1869 just before the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted blacks the right to vote. In response to explicit exclusion of women from the vote in the amendment, Anthony and Stanton left the AERA and founded the exclusively female National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). Unable to reconcile, Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe founded the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) in response, disbanding the AERA. The NWSA focused on woman's enfranchisement via a federal constitutional amendment, while the AWSA believed suffrage could be more easily achieved through state-by-state campaigns. ("American Equal Rights Association (AERA)," Encyclopedia Britannica, last modified May 2013, American-Equal-Rights-Association-AERA.)

[4] Theodore Tilton (1835-1907) was the editor of The Independent, a daily abolitionist New York newspaper. He served as an officer of the American Equal Rights Association. Later in his career, Tilton instigated of one of the most famous American sex scandals, suing fellow abolitionist and feminist Henry Ward Beecher for allegedly having an affair with Tilton's wife. (Bob Furman. "The Women's Suffrage Movement, Henry Ward Beecher and the Tilton Trial," Brooklyn Heights Blog, last modified July 2011,

[5] The AWSA held a convention in Cleveland, OH, November 24-25, 1869 to elect new leadership and coordinate work among newly initiated state suffrage associations. At the convention, Henry Ward Beecher was elected president and William Lloyd Garrison vice-president. ("American Women's Suffrage Association", The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, last modified October 2005,

[6] Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) was a leader in both the anti-slavery and woman suffrage movements. She presided over the AERA from its founding until 1868 when the group began to fragment. (Nancy C. Unger, "Lucretia Coffin Mott," American National Biography Online, last modified February 2000,

[7] Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) was a popular minister and liberal social activist who advocated woman suffrage, temperance, Darwinism, and abolition. In 1871, he was accused of having an affair with Elizabeth Tilton, wife of Theodore Tilton, which greatly tarnished his reputation. (Michael Kazin, "The Gospel of Love," The New York Times, last modified July 16, 2006,

[8] There is no confirmation of the attendance of Antoinette Brown Blackwell at the meeting or her deciding vote; however, the AWSA and the NWSA did not consolidate until 1890, when the two groups joined to create the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).