Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Barton Hall of Fame Nominee Lucy Stone

While considering how to convey the suspected reasoning behind Clara Barton's nomination of Lucy Stone Blackwell, the best short phrase that keeps coming to mind is "The Original American Women's Libber.”  During my vetting process, one article on Stone-Blackwell states, "Stone was known for using her maiden name after marriage." Unlike some of the other women ahead of their time in the 19th century, the choice did not seem to affect her marriage.
Lucy Stone
Courtesy of 

Lucy Stone, like Barton, hailed from Central Massachusetts. Working through genealogical records found no biological kinship between Barton and Stone even though only a mere 19 miles separate their hometowns. Stone also, like Barton, grew up believing she could accomplish almost anything a man could and never understood why anyone considered women inferior to men. While Barton would go on to a career in humanitarianism, Stone would promote women's suffrage.

Barton and Stone also shared the teaching profession early in their adulthood that impacted their ideas about women's rights. For Barton, teaching was somewhat a family occupation; both her sisters taught and her older brother Stephen superintended the Oxford, Massachusetts school system for a time. Stone also followed in her older siblings footsteps, and left the profession when paid less than her brother for substituting for him. Barton left when the public school committee in Bordentown, NJ hired a man as principal at the school she had organized and established. Neither would go back to the classroom as a teacher.
Stone received her baccalaureate degree from Oberlin Collegiate Institute in Ohio on August 25, 1847, becoming the first female college graduate from Massachusetts. Influenced by abolitionist and women's suffrage lecturers such William Lloyd Garrison, Sarah Grimke, and Antoinette Brown, Stone decided on a career as a public speaker. Surprisingly, the men in her family supported the idea, while Stone's mother and sisters did not. Stone began giving anti-slavery lectures in Massachusetts, but by 1849 also spoke in New York and Pennsylvania. National recognition came by 1851.

Henry Blackwell
Courtesy of

Unlike Barton, Stone married Henry Blackwell after a two-year courtship. Blackwell became Stone's manager and took the unusual step of a prenuptial agreement stating the couple were partners, would share costs of maintaining a household equally, and allowing Stone to keep her last name. Blackwell went so far as to include a protest of man's superiority over his wife and vowed not to do so. The Worcester (Massachusetts) Spy published the protest and made national headlines. Stone would bear one daughter, Alice, born in 1857, who went on to follow in her mother's footsteps.
Lucy and daughter Alice
Courtesy of
During the 1850s and 1860s, Stone founded or helped found several national organizations beginning with the National Women's Rights Convention in 1855, and including the Women's National Loyal League in 1863, the American Equal Rights Association in 1866 along with Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass and others. She founded the American Woman Suffrage Association in 1869 with Julia Ward Howe in a split from Stanton and Anthony's National Women Suffrage Association who only allowed women members. The two Associations would merge in 1887.

Lucy in later years
Courtesy of
Stone spent much of her career writing and lobbying for state and national petitions to support her cause. She spoke to Congress in 1891 regarding women's suffrage although women's suffrage would remain undone until 1920. Stone also founded and edited the Woman's Journal in 1870, which ceased publication in 1831. She also led a unaccepted movement to change women's clothing, sporting a "bloomers" dress at public appearances early in her speaking career.  Lucy Stone died at her home in Dorchester, Massachusetts on October 18, 1893.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

To Write Or Not To Write...

It seems most would agree that to make a reputation as an influential professional historian, one must write and publish not only books, but all sorts of printed matter for public consumption.  Yesterday, at the main museum I noticed a new book in our library, Lincoln and Whitman, by William E. Barton, Clara Barton's cousin.  Funny I thought, I was just looking through his biography of Miss Barton to find some outstanding quotes for part of the CBMSO's exhibits, and spoke to the museum's Director of Research about his peerless credibility as a Barton biographer.  The inside cover of Lincoln and Whitman is filled with several reviews by his peers outlining his expertise as a Lincoln scholar.

Part of my work at the museum is to develop material for all types of programming.  Naturally, my first thoughts centered on what to write and publish in regards to my research on Barton.  But a problem arises due to the amount of work already available to the public.  One may find so much varying material on Barton already that covers just about every aspect of her being as to give a fairly balanced perception of this legendary woman.  William Barton's biography and Stephen Oates' focus on the Civil War years (A Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War), two favorites, leave almost no stone unturned.  While writing and designing programming material is still necessary to cover specific aspects the museum will highlight, the question still remains- what major work could be accomplished on Barton that will fascinate and inspire interested citizens as well as catch those who are blissfully unaware of the extraordinary importance of a long-gone heroine?

Civil War Supply Wagons
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
First and foremost, it is disappointing that no one has compiled and published her writings.  One of my most profound delights is reading about the experiences and thoughts of a historical figure from their own words.  Barton left literally thousands of documents available so that her life might be remembered and are the basis of cousin William Barton's biography.   She thoughtfully kept her writings and appointed friends and colleagues to a "literary committee" led by William Barton to ensure their availability as reference material.  Accomplishing this feat is now in progress.

Secondly, has Barton been remembered for her most important achievements?  I suspect, for myself, that is the foundation of any new work.  There are times when one, after realizing the effect bias has on Civil War era histories, may have concerns about missing or discarded profoundly helpful lessons overlooked in favor of casting other light.  Should not avoiding repeating past mistakes be history's primary goal?  Or avoiding "reinventing the wheel" while people suffer?  Unfortunately, the US military did reinvent the system of emergency evacuation of wounded during the First World War because the post Civil War draw-down forgot Dr. Jonathan Letterman's groundbreaking work.  Let us remember these important lessons for the future.

Circa 1902 at the Int. Red Cross Conference (age 80!)
Courtesy of

Remembering Clara Barton is an important step to avoiding some of the pain and trauma that accompanies catastrophic events.  Exploring Barton's life and experiences may inspire many great values and actions such as courage, self-reliance, determination, compassion and tolerance.  As for myself, I know I can use more of those things, it seems unimaginable to have enough of any of them.  Anyone interested in learning more may come to an informal study being held at the Missing Soldiers Office site next Monday, Jan. 13th at 6:30pm.  A few lifetime learners will be discussing Stephen Oates' book A Woman of Valor at that time.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Highlighting Barton's Work

Clara Barton is an American Icon because of some extraordinary achievements made during her lifetime.  They were the result of hard work, but primarily born from determination and perseverence.  We can separate her work into several areas from her overall role as a pioneering American woman, primarily:

International Relief Organizer
Champion of Human Rights

As a Humanitarian, Barton believed in public service and fulfilling the needs of victims of war and natural disasters.  While her focus evolved through the American Civil War, she recognized the needs of other victims while participating in the Franco-Prussian War and reacted to the requests for assistance after man-made and natural disasters.  Once she realized her calling in organizing and delivering aid to those in need, her expansion from military to civilian based work became obvious.  Barton used the expansion to convince the U.S. government that a disaster relief organization was in America's best interests.  Thousands of relief organizations exist due to her international leadership in promoting relief activities.

As an Educator, Barton believed that people could best help themselves through a good education.  She championed education through a long teaching career, and her establishment of the first public school in Bordentown, NJ.  After establishing the American Red Cross, she lobbied within the organization for first aid education.  After its rejection and her resignation from the ARC, she established a non-profit organization, the National First Aid Association of America, to meet the need.  Later absorbed by the ARC, it is a requirement for many public servants and volunteers across the United States today.

As an International Relief Organizer, Barton assisted in saving lives through the support of the military medical system during the American Civil War, the International Red Cross (IRC) during the Franco-Prussian War, and her participation as American diplomat in several Geneva Conventions in the late nineteenth century.  She introduced and lobbied for what became known as the "American Amendment" of the Geneva Convention expanding the IRC's mission to include non-military disasters.  Barton herself traveled to war-torn countries to provide relief to starving and/or homeless refugees, ignoring societal norms of prejudice aimed at minority groups.  She believed that refugees should not be given free aid beyond temporary food and shelter, but given the means to help themselves.  Barton accomplished this in Europe by developing a clothing manufacture through skillless refugee women that ultimately stimulated their economy, taught the refugees a trade, and clothed needy families.

As a Champion of Human Rights, Barton ensured the inclusion of all victims of social injustice when delivering aid to the needy.  She believed in, as she said, "a hand up not a hand out."  During the American Civil War, she often advocated for the fair and equal treatment of the wounded, without regard to creed or race.  During one incident, she went so far as to abandon the field to return to Washington, wake and report the circumstances to her friend and patron, Senator Henry Wilson, and inspire him to immediate action!  On several occasions during the War, she cheerfully worked around established protocol to assist those in dire straits, significantly improving victims chances of survival and quality of life.

Barton also advocated for equal citizenship regardless or race or gender.  She felt that anyone who contributed to society should have a voice in government.  Not only a life-long women's suffragist, she championed suffrage for African-American men and made that a priority, alienating some friends.