Lucy Stone honored in Heritage park
Lucy Stone honored in Heritage park
Monday, April 23, 2001
By Christine GuilfoyTelegram & Gazette Staff
GARDNER– Lucy Stone, the prominent 19th century women’s rights advocate, was honored at the Gardner Heritage State Park yesterday, not far from where she gave her first public speech devoted solely to women’s rights. Stone became a leader of the women’s rights movement after the speech at the Evangelical Congregational Church in Gardner in 1847. The speech advanced the radical view that women should have the same rights as men. Her words three years later at the first National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester in 1850 would inspire Susan B. Anthony to abandon her work in the temperance movement and take up the cause of women’s rights. Stone, a native of West Brookfield and one of the first women in Massachusetts to graduate from college, almost missed the Worcester convention entirely. She dragged herself from her sick bed, where she was recovering from typhoid fever, to deliver the speech. Her words were widely reported in newspaper accounts of the convention that Susan B. Anthony read. Stone frequently visited Gardner, where her brother, the Rev. William Bowman Stone, was the pastor of the church on Green Street. Her sister lived in Gardner, as did Stone’s daughter, Alice, for a year. Stone was known for her ability to rouse others to her cause, and she provided a blueprint of action to achieve goals. Her life has continued to inspire some area residents, including three women who organized the Lucy Stone Commemorative Project and Women’s Rights Exhibit that opened at the state park’s visitor center Saturday. The exhibit, on the Worcester Convention of 1850 and the status of women at the time, will remain at the downtown visitor center, at 26 Lake St., until May 12. Members of the Lucy Stone Commemorative Project hope to establish a permanent exhibit at the visitor center, said Connie Riley, a member of the project. The group has applied for state money to establish the exhibit, which will include women’s period clothing and a video of an actress giving some of Stone’s speeches, Ms. Riley said. The exhibit could become part of the Freedom’s Way Trail, a historical trail stretching along Route 2 from Arlington to Gardner, she said. The group also expects Gardner to become a stop on the Women’s Heritage Trail, now in the planning stages, said Carolyn Howe, the president of the Worcester Women’s History Project. The trail will begin in Worcester at the site of the 1850 convention, and work its way out to other parts of Worcester County, she said. Ms. Howe, a sociology professor at the College of the Holy Cross, was the driving force behind the creation of the exhibit at the Heritage State Park Visitor Center. Gardner already has two granite memorials dedicated to Stone, said Toni Dahir, another member of the commemorative project. One is at the Elm Street house that once belonged to Stone’s sister. Stone frequently stayed there. The other is on Green Street, near the former site of the Congregational Church, where Stone began her career as a feminist firebrand. The church has since been torn down, its stone used to build a chair factory in South Gardner, Miss Dahir said. At the visitor center yesterday, actresses portrayed Lucy Stone and some of her contemporaries, bemoaning the laws that gave men all of the power, and calling for change. The legal protections were so few that a man could give up a couple’s children for adoption without his wife’s approval. Abigail Rawson, portrayed by Karen Moran, made judicious use of her fan to keep cool in her floor-length dress and petticoats, which swished slightly as she moved. Ms. Moran’s maroon cloth handbag swung from her wrist as she spoke, and she was as unflappable as the neatly tied ribbon on her bonnet while addressing about 30 people in the visitor center. She recalled the successes of the temperance movement, which had cut in half the consumption of liquor. Women were concerned about alcohol because of how women and children were hurt by men’s drinking, she said. Women were being abused, even murdered, and children were suffering, she said. Most women are either puppets in the parlor or drudges in the kitchen, Ms. Moran said. She quoted Stone: We want to be something more than appendages of society. Toni Dahir portrayed Lucy Stone, Paula Doress-Worters was Ernestine Rose and Paulina Wright Davis, and Sibyl Brownlee was Sarah Parker Remond.
Copyright 2001 West Brookfield Historical Commission Last Modified: November 16, 2001