An Unapologetic Life
University Press 2015
Sally G. McMillen is the Mary Reynolds Babcock professor of history at Davidson College. In her book Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life (Oxford University Press, 2015) McMillen has given us a rich biography of the life and times of the abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Lucy Stone. Born in 1818 into a farming community in Massachusetts, Stone a precocious and determined girl set her sights not on marriage but on education and self-development leading her to a earning a degree from Oberlin College. Against her parents’ wishes for their daughter, she chose to pursue a career as a public speaker on behalf of abolition and women’s rights. Rising from relative obscurity she became known as a passionate and persuasive speaker crisscrossing the country and speaking to thousands. Her gender, her confident demeanor, and the unpopular views brought both admiring and hostile audiences. Along the way, she forged political alliances and personal friendships with the leading abolitionists and women’s rights advocates including Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, and Wendell Phillips. Her many associations including significant contributions to the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, American Equal Rights Association, and founding the American Woman Suffrage Association and the Woman’s Journal framed her 50-year career. McMillen also provides a private portrait of a principled Lucy Stone battling bouts of self-doubt, exhaustive travel, and difficult financial and political challenges within and without the suffrage movement. As the mother of Alice Stone Blackwell and the wife of Henry Browne Blackwell, her partner- in-arms, she undertook a domestic life that stood against the marital customs of her day. Avoiding self-promotion and refusing to participate in building her historical legacy she was left out of the national Memorial Sculpture to women’s rights at the U.S. Capitol rotunda diminishing her place among Mott, Stanton and Anthony. McMillen recovers not only a committed advocate but also one who against societal norms lived out her ideals of an independent, full, and self-directed life for women.