Document 2: Lucy Stone, "Oberlin and Woman," The Oberlin Jubilee
(Oberlin: E.J. Goodrich,1883) 1

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The Oberlin Jubilee in 1883 celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Oberlin College, known for its pioneering the collegiate education of women and its early acceptance of African American students. A major theme of the Jubilee volume was religion, specifically changes in the Theology Department. Most essays displayed a level of Christian zeal; interestingly, Lucy Stone's essay for the Jubilee eschewed this theme, focusing instead on a secular rhetoric of social progress. The transcribed excerpt of Lucy Stone's essay, "Oberlin and Woman," is a powerful example of Stone's rhetorical abilities and her acute awareness of public sentiment. Rather than praising Oberlin as a bastion of religious purity and pious justice, Stone framed Oberlin as a place where the future of society manifested. Oberlin advocated for female education and supported racial equality, and the world followed suit.

Lucy Stone used this praise of her alma mater to segue into a discussion of the vote. The next frontier, she argued, was woman suffrage, and she urged Oberlin to once again lead the way. From this relatively benign and praising point Stone entered into increasingly more challenging territory. Invoking the decisions made in the aftermath of the Civil War, Stone described how the government dealt with each party invested in the struggle-first the African Americans freed by the conflict, then the rebels, and then Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

The mention of such an immediate and profound villain surely would have struck the reader. Stone then continued to expose the cruel irony in Jefferson Davis' punishment. By denying Davis the right to vote, he became the political equal of women, voiceless and unrepresented in the government. By ignoring women's pleas for universal suffrage, the United States government had cruelly placed patriotic women, devoted to the Union and to liberty, on the same political level with the most hated man in America.

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But Oberlin had not quite measured the meaning, nor was it quite ready for the full application, of Father Shipherd's words that "the neglected and misjudged sex should have all the instructive privileges which have unreasonably distinguished the leading sex from theirs."2 Custom, which held women to silence in public places, sat with the Faculty and with the Ladies Board,3 and shook its minatory finger at the daring girls who wanted the discipline of rhetorical exercises and discussions, and to read their own essays at Commencement.4 But time has altered all this and settled it right.


And what is the result of this example of Oberlin of fifty years of co-education? It is true Dr. Dix still holds his straw up against Niagara.5 Harvard keeps its hand on its door-knob; but the "annex" is there, and all around behold more than half the colleges of the land wide open to women.6 Boston University, Cornell, the State Universities of Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, Nebraska, with all their departments, are open to women, as are other colleges almost innumerable.7 Colleges for women alone, Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith, have been opened.8 Some of them send to Oberlin for women to act as professors. The London University and those of Cambridge and Oxford in England give their examinations to women. Even India, breaking its triple bondage of women, sends to us her daughters to study medicine, while a young East India woman endeavors to impart to her government and to her countrywomen an idea of the need of education of women.9


Oberlin is proud that it reached down its hand to help the slaves to their liberty. Oberlin is proud that it reached out its hand to the "misjudged and neglected sex," and said, "The leaves of the tree of knowledge are for you as for us." Another deed waits for Oberlin to add to its crown of honor, and that is, to affirm the principle of the consent of the governed in its application to women. As I sat here I looked up to your torn and tattered flag. It marks the battle-fields where your soldiers carried it for freedom. But I remember that other flags with their stars and bars are floating on our hilltops everywhere, and taxed without representation and governed without their consent. When the war was ended and the Government asked in its reconstruction, "What shall we do with the negroes?" the answer was, "These men have fought our battle and carried our flag. Now let them have the ballot." And they got it. And then it asked, "What shall be done with the rebels?" and with one voice the people said, "Let them have amnesty and universal suffrage. And they got it. And then it was asked, "What shall we do with Jefferson Davis-the man who had been the greatest traitor to his country?" And the nation, looking over all its borders to find the worst punishment it could inflict upon him, did not put him in prison for life, did not set him to hard labor, did not load him with chains that should clank in human ears, but it took away his right to vote. It made him the political peer of every woman in the land. When the women who had in camp and on the field nursed the soldiers, who had turned night into day to raise supplies for the Sanitary Commission and to help the brave boys in blue10 - when these women went to Washington and asked, "In the reconstruction of the Government, what will you do with us?" the Government left us all the peers of Jefferson Davis.

Now it is to save women from this wrong and shame that Oberlin should take its next step. So to-day, standing here and seeing what Oberlin has done for women, pardon me for appealing, as one of twenty millions who may be taxed, and fined, and imprisoned, and hung, and have never a word to say about it, as one whom the law touches at every point, reaching its hand into my cradle and deciding all about my baby, what shall be its relation to me and to it, that touches the dollar I earn, the deed I have signed, the property I own, and plunges me into the weal and woe of the great Commonwealth of States, and leaves me no voice about it-in behalf of twenty millions of women, on this good day I stand here in Oberlin begging pardon for going beyond the limit of my subject to say, O men who have been so wise, so kind, and so just to women, take one step more and help lift us from peerage with Jefferson Davis.

[1] Transcribed by Nina Winterbottom.

[2] Quote from the first Circular of the Oberlin Institute, March 8, 1834. (Circular of the Institute, 8 March, 1834 in Bulletin of Oberlin College: The Beginning of College Education for Women and of Coeducation on the College Level, ed. Robert S. Fletcher and Ernest H. Wilkins, March 20, 1937, 343. Oberlin, OH).

[3] The Ladies Board, made up of the wives of professors, was responsible for creating and reinforcing rules of conduct for female students. Antoinette Brown Blackwell recalled that she and Stone liked to provoke the Board in order to air their grievances. (Jan DeMarinis, Jean Ebosh, Gail Wood, ed., "Oberlin Women." Oberlin Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, third edition, Oberlin, 1967)

[4] As Stone noted, early Oberlin's women students were asked to sit in the audience for men's debates, and were not allowed to participate. Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown Blackwell organized a debate against one another under the authority of Professor James A. Thome, head of the rhetoric department. Legend has it that it was glorious, however the Ladies Board forbade further female public speech thereafter. Stone led the organization of a secret debate club for women, first held in the woods and then in the house of the mother of one of the African American students. Antoinette Blackwell Brown also recounts that Lucy Stone was not allowed to read her own speech at Commencement. She was selected by her peers to write a Commencement essay, however it was to be read by the same Prof. Thome as were all the ladies' essays. Stone petitioned the Ladies Board to no avail. President Asa Mahan supported Stone's arguments, but the faculty and Ladies Board would not reconsider. Because she could not read it, Stone did not write it.(Alice Stone Blackwell, Lucy Stone: Pioneer of Woman's Rights. 1930. Reprint, University Press of Virginia, 2001, 60-68.)

[5] Rev. Dr. Morgan Dix was rector of Trinity Parish in New York for 46 years. As a sample of his rhetoric on women indicates, he did not favor equality: "The deference paid her is less, homage has turned to mere civility, the public invade her privacy, the newspapers print her name in full, she is treated with no more ceremony than if she were a man." ("Women and Dr. Dix," The New York Times, April 8, 1883).

[6] Until 1943 Harvard University faculty officially taught Radcliffe College women in separate classes. Radcliffe College was not fully integrated into Harvard University until 1977 ("About Harvard College."

[7] Cornell University became coeducational in 1872 (Charlotte Williams Conable, Women at Cornell: The Myth of Equal Education [Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1977], The University of Michigan was coeducational in 1871 (James Tobin, "Our Brilliant Miss Sheldon: I Start For The New Life." The University of Iowa admitted women in 1855 ("Quick Facts." 2011) University of Wisconsin: ~1869 (Almanac. 2011.) The University of Kansas admitted women in 1866 (Frank W. Blackmar, ed., Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc., vol. II. [Chicago: Standard Pub. Co., 1912]. Women were admitted to Kansas State Agricultural College in 1863. (Andrea G. Radke, "Women in Higher Education," Encyclopedia of the Great Planes, David J Wishart, ed., University of Nebraska admitted women in 1869 (Andrea G. Radke, "Women in Higher Education," Encyclopedia of the Great Planes, David J Wishart, ed.,

[8] Vassar College opened in 1861 (History of Vassar. Wellesley College opened in 1875 (College History. Smith College opened in 1875 (The Early History of Smith College,

[9] Sorabji Shapurji Bengali and George Kittredge founded the Medical Women for India Fund (MWIF) in 1882 which advocated for "Indians, Anglo Indians and European girls" to study medicine, for Western women to work as doctors in India, and for hospitals solely for women and children, run by women (184). It successfully petitioned Bombay University to admit women in 1883. (Mridula Ramanna, Western Medicine and Public Health in Colonial Bombay: 1845-1895 (New Delhi, India: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2002), 185.)

[10] The Sanitary Commission worked to improve conditions on the battlefield, relying solely on donations. Many soldiers died not in combat but from epidemics in the camp, and indeed both men and women risked contracting these illnesses while working for the Commission. (United States Sanitary Commission Records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, 4-6).