October 21, 2011

Lucy Stone: one of the anointed few

Lucy Stone was a well-known and respected abolitionist and suffragist. She became the first woman in Massachusetts to earn a college degree and kept her maiden name after she her marriage. As a public speaker and organizer, she was a constant advocate for civil rights throughout her life. She died in 1893 at the age of 75.

Stone's funeral was held on October 21, 1893. She had asked that her funeral be "simple and cheerful" but her wishes were undermined by the throng of admirers that came to pay their respects. Among her dozen pallbearers (six men and six women) was Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Her husband and supporter Henry Browne Blackwell had written to another champion of civil rights (especially for women), Julia Ward Howe: "what shall I do without her?" Howe memorialized Stone in a poem, "Lucy Stone":

Full of honors and of years,
   Lies our friend at rest,
Passing from earth's hopes and fears
   To the ever Blest.

One of the anointed few
   Touched with special grace
For a life whose service true
   Should redeem the race.

Where is that persuasive tone
   Welcome in our ears?
Still I hear it, sounding on,
   Through the golden spheres.

When we raise our battle cry
   For the holy Right,
We shall feel her drawing nigh
   With a spirit's might.

As the veil of flesh doth part,
   We behold her rise,
Crowned with majesty of heart:
   There true queendom lies.

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