Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life by Sally G. McMillen–New Biography Book Release–Date: 01-29-15

January 14, 2015

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     I came home from grade school so excited because our teacher had read to us today about a woman who had lived during the time of the Civil War. Her name was Elizabeth Blackwell, and she was the very first woman to become a doctor in the United States. What had so enthralled me as a grade school girl was just how much determination she had. 
     My teacher told us that Elizabeth Blackwell had to apply over and over again to get into medical school and even then her struggles didn’t end. She steadfastly kept her goal in sight and determined nothing would stop her–including some men who didn’t want to see a woman in the medical profession. It seems the men at that time thought that women belonged at home, taking care of the children. I thought that she was an extraordinary woman and came to admire her greatly.
Lucy Stone giving
a speech. [2]
     As I began reading Lucy Stone’s story, I began learning many things about her. Things, I thought, that seemed similar to what Elizabeth Blackwell had gone through. No. Lucy Stone didn’t become a doctor, but she did struggle to become a public speaker at a time when women were just not seen speaking in public. The women of the time were suppose to be quiet and listen to speeches, not give them. One of Lucy Stone’s struggles, then, was to get people to accept the notion that it was acceptable for women to speak in public. 
     Little did I know how inextricably Lucy Stone and Elizabeth Blackwell were linked. Before I delve into that, let’s take a quick look at the synopsis of the book.
Absent from this marvelous marble monument
is Lucy Stone, frontline Suffrage Proponent and
abolitionist. Stone does not appear in the sculpture nor
is she mentioned on the inscription. [3]

     McMillen’s “Introduction,” explains the very focus of the book. In the rotunda of our capitol is a famous statue, “The Memorial Sculpture,” embody- ing the images of Suffragists, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony. Inscribed below the marble work is an inscription saying, “these three stand unique and peerless.” No mention of Lucy Stone and no image in marble tells of her great achievements and work in the suffrage and abolition movements. McMillen argues that even though Stone is not famous, she was a “pivotal” part of the abolition and suffrage movements, and importantly, should have been included in the memorial sculpture.
Note: Under the section, “Speakers,” the left column,
second name down, is Lucy Stone’s name. She was
listed on this flyer as one of the speakers. [4]

     McMillen lays the groundwork for her book and for Stone’s life by relating how Stone’s Massachusetts childhood formed Lucy into an unflagging proponent for women’s rights. Early on in Stone’s life she was attracted to education and women’s independence. Believing education the key to independence Stone was one of the first women in all of the US to enroll in and earn a college degree. At the time, Oberlin College Institute was the only college open to women.

     After earning her degree she began a career in public as an orator, speaking as an activist for women’s rights and anti-slavery issues. It wasn’t long until Lucy Stone was one of the most famous and leading orators of her day.

     Working towards women’s rights, Stone helped organize many yearly national women’s rights conventions during the 1850s. During the Civil War, she also played a crucial role in the American Equal Rights Association as as one of its organizers and as one of its leaders. Additionally, Stone was one of the co-founders of the American Woman Suffrage Association (Later, the American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman Suffrage Association would merge into one association; the new association was then called the National American Woman Suffrage Association.[2]).

Alice Stone Blackwell, dau-
ghter of Lucy Stone and
Henry Browne Blackwell.[5]

     Lucy Stone married Henry Blackwell and gave birth to Alice Stone Blackwell. Alice would become a well-known feminist, suffragist, journalist and continue the work of her mother advocating for human rights.

     Lucy Stone knew and worked with other greats, like Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, William Lloyd Garrison, and many others. McMillen’s biography of Lucy Stone reveals Stone’s influential and important work. She shows why her extremely important work has been overlooked by historians and artists. McMillen points out that Stone’s contributions to human and woman’s rights “were no less significant or revolutionary” than those of Stanton, Anthony, and Mott. In this eminently readable and wonderfully researched work, McMillen sets out and proves that Lucy Stone deserves the credit and acclaim for her critical life’s work.


     First, the book is due to be released 01-29-15. Also, I loved that I discovered the connection between Elizabeth Black- well and Lucy Stone. Here it is: Lucy Stone married Henry Browne Blackwell. Henry Blackwell was only one of nine children; of those other eight children, one was a beloved sister by the name of Elizabeth Black- well. So, Elizabeth Black- well and Lucy Stone became sisters-in-law to each other when Henry married Lucy.

     According to Sally G. McMillen, author of the book, Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life, Stone accomplished many, many things in her desire to make life better, especially for women. McMillen details those activities and achievements in her book. Those references and sources are well documented.

     McMillen’s writing style is easy to read, not pedantic, but knowledgeable and obviously containing a great love for the subject. Moreover, when things like unattractive in-fighting among those in the suffrage movement occurs over different approaches, political strategy, or philosophy, McMillen is unflinching in her effort to honestly portray those incidents.

“On August 13, 1968, the 150th anni-
versary of her birth, the U.S.
Postal Service honored Stone with
a $.50 postage stamp in the
Prominent Americans Series.” [6]

     I very much enjoyed learning about Lucy Stone, so much so, that I agree with Sally McMillen, that Stone was given insufficient credit for her work. I think that Stone should be included in History classes along with the other suffragettes like Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Also, I think it highly unlikely that the statue will be changed in the rotunda of the Capitol. Something else, could be done to right the fact that Stone has been so overlooked, like creating a statue of her and placing it in the rotunda, as well.

     I was so taken with Sally G. McMillen’s book that I went to the internet to seek out more information about Lucy Stone. On YouTube, I found this wonderful, short (3min. 41 sec.) video about Lucy Stone. I enjoyed getting to see the pictures of the 1800’s, and facts that reinforced my reading of McMillen’s book. Take a quick look at the short video and see what you think. [7]

     I gained a wonderful appreciation for Lucy Stone and other women working for women’s rights in the 1800s. I gained appreciation for the hardships they had to endure, the daily lives of women, and the numerous legal injustices forced upon womankind. Appreciation also, for women when they gave birth to baby girls–they grieved the birth of a girl because they knew the hard road that lay ahead for her, amounting to almost servitude with no legal rights (property, divorce, etc.).



     I selected this quote because of my obvious love of books, reading and all things bookish. A love of reading is something many people had in the 1800s because of lack of other forms of intellectual and pleasurable pursuits that many of us take for granted in modern times–including the computer and internet. Here’s my favorite quote (highlighting is not in the source material):


Lucy also was a voracious reader and read everything she could get her hands on, including newspapers the family subscribed to–The Massachusetts Spy, published in Worcester by Isaiah Thomas; William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator; and the Anti-Slavery Standard, the paper of the American Anti-Slavery Society. 50 other papers the family was able to borrow, including Youth’s Companion and the Advocate of Moral Reform. Lucy and Rhoda subscribed to the New England Spectator, which Lucy described as a “family paper” covering “the study of the Bible, family religion, active piety, the abolition of slavery, and the licentiousness and to promote the circulation of useful intelligence. Lucy devoured books though did not read her first novel until she was in her teens [because Puritan influence]…considered reading fiction a useless pastime. [Kindle Location 310-317.]



 I love that Lucy Stone was a “voracious reader.” I have a great love of reading, too; hence, the name of my blog: Sharon’s Love of Books. My reading includes everything from classics to comics–from Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations,”to Guardians of the Galaxy. I read it all. I also like that it points out that we are blessed to live in the times we do. We can read fiction, non-fiction, classic, in fact, every genre in any format. People in the 1800s didn’t know about the benefits of reading fiction. In fact, there are cognitive benefits to reading fiction.

     A “useless pastime.” Well, I have never found reading fiction to be a useless pastime. In fact, Jordan Bates of Refine the Mind,” likes to promote reading of fiction, too. He reports that he found an article in the New York Times who had done an in-depth news reporting piece from the journal, Science. Bates synthesized the article to give us a few benefits of reading fiction.   
  1. Reading literary fiction has immediate effects in terms of influencing how well we can understand our peers;
  2. Reading fiction exposes the reader to empathy (while non-fiction has a negative correlation);
  3. People who read fiction (even short stories) have less need for “cognitive closure” than those who only read non-fiction;
  4. Reading fiction affects our minds by giving us insight into human behavior, motivation, and even perception. We can better understand how societies operate, 
  5. how to maintain good relationships, and why people live in certain ways;
  6. Reading fiction can help us relate emotionally with others–making us more sensitive and compassionate, and be kinder because “we realize the depth beyond the unfamiliar face”;
  7. Also, reading fiction helps us to deal with ambiguity…leading to creativity and sophisticated thinking. [12]
     A big thank you to Mr. Bates for providing us all with these wonderful benefits of reading fiction. Second, the benefits of reading fiction are not limited to these six attributes. This is just a start for you to help you understand that reading fiction is not just a waste of time.
     This book, if it were a movie, would get a “G” rating from me. Since it is not a movie, suffice to say that anyone of any age, capable of reading, would find the book acceptable in all respects.
     Second, as to my rating of the book: For all the reasons I have stated above, I am pleased to rate this book at 4.0 stars out of 5.0 stars. Well done Ms. McMillen.
     Please remember this new biography will be released 01-29-15–preorder your copy now! Thank you for joining me this week as we were privileged to look at the book, Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life by Sally G. McMillen–a NetGalley ARC book. Thank you to the publishers, as well for providing this Advance Reading Copy. Please join me, again, next week as we go back to fiction for our book review.

Until next time…

This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [14]

…many happy pages of reading!

Happy New Year! I send my best wishes to you for a joyous, safe, and abundant new year! All my love,


[1] Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life.” [by Sally G. McMillen] Retrieved 01-02-15.
[2] Beginning of Stone’s Career.” Retrieved 01-12-15.
[3] Portrait Monument to Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony.” [artist: Adelaide Johnson, 1920, Rotunda, U.S. Capitol] Retrieved 01-04-15.
[4] Empowered Women.” Retrieved 01-12-15.
[5] Alice Stone Blackwell (1857-1950).” Retrieved 01-12-15.
[6] 50-cent United States Postal Service stamp Honoring Stone.” Retrieved 01-13-15.
[7] Lucy Stone. [Published 03-17-13. Text from “101Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed US History,” Edited by Michele Bollinger and Dao X. Tran, “#11: Lucy Stone,” written by Sarah Grey; Music: “This Little Light of Mine” by Odetta (Google Play–AmazonMP3–eMusic–iTunes)] Retrieved 01-13-15.
[8] “Annie Dillard.” Retrieved 01-13-15.
[9] General Fiction Book Blogs (A-H).” Retrieved 01-13-15.
[10] How to Read 20 Books a Year.” Retrieved 01-13-15.
[11] Dealing With Ambiguity.” Retrieved 01-13-15.
[12] Three Cognitive Benefits of Reading.” Retrieved 01-13-15.
[13] How We Rate the Providers.” Retrieved 01-13-15.
[14] Pictures From My Garden.” Retrieved 01-04-15.

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