"It's wonderful her homesite is being preserved," says Joelle Million, noted Lucy Stone biographer, author of Woman's Voice, Woman's Place: Lucy Stone and the Birth of the Woman's Rights Movement. "In a country that commemorates just about everything, there's nothing for Lucy. There's not even a gravesite because she was cremated. And, ironically, her ashes are stored in an urn labeled Blackwell–her husband's name. After a lifetime of not giving up her own name, in death, she lost it."
"More work needs to be done on her," says Million. The whole of women's history was ignored until the latter part of the 20th century and even then, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are the names that leap out in bold typeface on the page. Because of a rift in the movement, Lucy's legacy gathered dust.
Lucy was one of the first and most outspoken advocates for women's rights and abolition in the mid-1800s. Her radicalism on both subjects brought large crowds, often numbering in the thousands, but some of the listeners were hostile. Reports tell of people tearing down posters advertising her speeches, of burning pepper in the places she spoke, and of pelting her with prayer books.
After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, black men gained the right to vote while women did not. But when Lucy Stone refused to join her peers, including Stanton and Anthony, in isolating the right for women's suffrage from that of black men, she created a divide that nearly wrote her out of history–quite literally.
The ideological differences that developed between Lucy Stone and Stanton resulted in the organization of two separate groups. The National Woman Suffrage Association founded by Stanton and Anthony was largely made up of New York residents. Lucy Stone's American Woman Suffrage Association was much wider reaching in its membership.
While scholars continue to research and debate the finer points of suffrage history, one fact is indisputable. Lucy Stone had a mesmerizing voice. "It was variously described as the perfect instrument, magical, silvery," says Million. "Many reviewers of the day commented on Lucy's frank demeanor, her empathy with audience, and on the power of her voice to convert listeners. Stone was a gifted speaker in the Golden Age of Oratory, an era when people attended lectures for information and entertainment. It's how ideas were spread."
In the woodsy silence of Lucy's childhood home, it is surprisingly easy to imagine her silvery voice calling out clear and true.
Buying the Coy's Hill property was the first hurdle. Now sights are set on raising $140,000 to pay for planning, site improvements, and ongoing management. Though Wyman has changed jobs, he is not letting Lucy go. He remains a member of the volunteer committee helping to direct development of the site. The group has already decided the home will not be rebuilt, partly because of cost, but also because part of the story is the evolution of the landscape. Funds will pay for building trails and a parking lot, clearing brush (and poison ivy), and creating interpretive signs and panels to tell visitors Lucy's story.