Emma Stone Lawrence Blackwell (1851- 1920)
By Danielle Huelster, Undergraduate Student, Rutgers University
This biographical sketch was first published on the Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States and appears here by permission. That database is accessible at https://documents.alexanderstreet.com/VOTESforWOMEN
President of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association, member of the Orange Political Study Club
Emma Stone Lawrence was born on January 28, 1851, in Gardner, Massachusetts. She was the eldest child of Henry Lawrence and Sarah Witt Stone. Emma was the niece of the famous suffragist Lucy Stone. Who developed a close relationship with her niece, sometimes acting like a second mother to young Emma. She urged Emma to “cultivate her taste for history” through education and self exploration in music, drawing, and language (she studied French). Lucy Stone also encouraged Emma to read newspapers to stay informed on national events, including the women’s suffrage movement.
After her formal schooling, Emma became a schoolteacher and an assistant at The Women’s Journal. After a few years, she gave up her profession to be a homemaker. On October 28, 1875, Emma married George Washington Blackwell (1832-1912), the younger brother of Henry B. Blackwell (1825-1909), who was Lucy Stone’s husband. Elizabeth Blackwell, his sister, was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States. George Blackwell started his career in Wisconsin as a wheat trader and land agent in the 1850s. He studied law in New York City and eventually went into the real estate business, amassing a small fortune. The couple lived in East Orange, New Jersey. In July 1876, the couple had their first child, Howard L. Blackwell. In 1880 their second son, George L. Blackwell, was born, but he died of pneumonia on September 22, 1886. Their daughter Anna Marian Blackwell was born in August of 1883, followed by a fourth child, George Kenyon Blackwell, who died at only 10 months. They adopted Frances Millette, whom they treated as both a daughter and a servant. Their son Howard earned three degrees from Harvard, including a bachelor’s, a master’s, and a PhD in physics. He was the comptroller of Harvard from 1906-1910, a lecturer in physics, and later entered into real estate. After her husband died, Emma Blackwell lived with her daughter Anna and son-in-law Charles until her death on February 5, 1920, of carcinoma of the liver. Emma Stone Lawrence Blackwell was 69 at the time of her death.
Throughout her life, Emma Stone Blackwell was active in multiple organizations pertaining to women’s suffrage in both New Jersey and Massachusetts. She began by getting involved in local town organizations and eventually moved on to become the President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association’s New Jersey chapter. In 1872, the first woman’s club in the state of New Jersey was founded in East Orange, and Emma Blackwell was one its auditors. She was later elected president of the Woman’s Club of Orange, which became the largest women’s club in the state. She was also affiliated with the Orange Political Study Club, which was the first suffrage club to join the state federation in 1901.
Emma was a founder of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association (NJWSA) and attended its initial meeting in February 1890. She served as its recording secretary in 1894-95. She served as the NJWSA secretary in 1900, historian in 1903, and president in 1905-07. A document from the thirty-ninth annual convention of National American Women Suffrage Association confirms that Emma L. Blackwell was the president of the New Jersey chapter of NAWSA in 1907. In the years that Emma was active in NJWSA, local suffrage groups worked to change public opinion on suffrage and worked on progressive reforms, including getting women appointed to municipal boards, building state reformatories for women, and improving working conditions for women and children. Emma Blackwell was an assistant on education, industry, legal and political equality, and, especially, the right of women to vote. She worked for The Woman’s Journal, which her aunt Lucy founded, and was also a director for The Torch Bearer, a weekly newspaper devoted to the interests of women with a focus on education, industry, legal, and political equality, and especially, the right of women to vote.
Ancestry.com “Massachusetts Death Records for George L. Blackwell.” Accessed April 15, 2018.
Blackwell Family Papers (death certificate), accessed April 15, 2018. http://schlesinger.radcliffe.harvard.edu/onlinecollections/blackwell/item/48704384/6.
Blackwell family. Papers of the Blackwell family, 1831-1981: A Finding Aid, accessed April 15, 2018. http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~sch00050.
Anthony, Susan B. and Ida H. Harper. History of Women’s Suffrage Trilogy-Part 2: The Trailblazing Documentation on Women’s Enfranchisement in United States, Great Britain, and Other Parts of the World, (e-artnow, 2017), pg. 118.
Dodyk, Delight, “Education and Agitation: The Woman Suffrage Movement in New Jersey” (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Ru8tgers University, 1997).
Lasser, Carol. “Let Us Be Sisters Forever”: The Sororal Model of Nineteenth-Century Female Friendship, Signs 14, no. 1 (Autumn 1988): pg. 177. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.rowan.edu/stable/3174665.
Laurie, Maxine N. and Marc Mappen. Encyclopedia of New Jersey. (New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 2004), pg. 882.
McMillen Sally G. Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life. (New York, Oxford Press, 2015), pg. 160.
Proceedings of the Thirty-Ninth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. (Ohio, Wm. Ritezel& Co), pg. 83.
Ryan Agnes E. The Torch Bearer: A Look Forward and Back at the Woman’s Journal, the Organ of the Woman’s Movement. (Boston, The Women’s Journal and Suffrage News, 1916), pg. 59.
Photo of Emma Blackwell – Library of Congress, https://loc.gov/resource/rbnawsa.n0024/?sp=25