by Leslie--Ed. Wheeler ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 1, 1981
If both parties cannot study more, think more, feel more, talk more and work more than they could alone, I will remain an old bachelor and adopt a Newfoundland dog or a terrier as an object of affection."" So wrote businessman Henry Blackwell to feminist Lucy Stone in the course of his two-year courtship (1853-55), conducted mostly through letters. Leslie Wheeler's (Jimmy Who?) scholarly yet unobstrusive editing of their letters--from the courtship period up to Lucy's death at 75--reveals two people sensitive to the pressures and counter-pressures of public issues and personal desires. The major surprise is Henry--more eloquent, more subtle than the moralistic and domineering Lucy. Coming from a family of strong women (his sister was the pioneering doctor Elizabeth Blackwell), he appreciated Lucy's dedication and independence, yet ultimately persuaded her that "". . .We owe a divided duty to ourselves and to others. . .we were created as positive ends as well as means."" It was he who first suggested their now-famous public protest against the marriage laws. ""Lucy dear I want to make a protest distinct and emphatic against the laws. . .I wish, as a husband, to renounce all the privileges which the law confers upon me."" And the good intentions were, for the most part, carried through. Writing to Susan B. Anthony shortly after the marriage, Lucy reported that, when she had asked her new husband if she might attend a convention at Saratoga, ""he did not give me permission, but told me to ask Lucy Stone!"" Lucy's speaking tours and Henry's own schedule of engagements and business efforts (such as an ill-fated attempt to replace cane sugar with beet sugar with the goal of ending slavery in the West Indies) meant many separations (""My own dear husband, we must not in the future be separate so much""). Then, with the birth of her daughter, Lucy finally retired from active tours for almost a decade, only to return with new vigor to the post-Civil War suffrage campaigns. The letters support historical interpretations of 19th-century feminism--such as its shift from liberal justifications for women's rights to a concentration on the vote based, in part, on racist and chauvinistic arguments. They also reflect the prudery that Lucy Stone shared with many other early feminists. But, above all, the letters reveal a carefully negotiated, mutually respectful relationship from which both parties appear to have prospered.
Pub Date: June 1, 1981
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1981
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