ANTOINETTE LOUISA BROWN BLACKWELL (1825 - 1921)
Antoinette Blackwell became a member of the Congregational Church at the extremely young age of nine. At twenty-one, she commenced studies at Oberlin College, where she pursued a degree in theology. She met with great opposition in this endeavor, and the degree was withheld until many years later. Nevertheless she began preaching, and in 1853 became the first American woman to be ordained to a major denomination, the Congregational Church, and continued preaching until 1915. In 1856, she married Samuel Charles Blackwell; together they had six daughters. An abolitionist and important early feminist, Mrs. Blackwell wrote several books on women’s rights and equality. In her The Sexes throughout Nature (New York, 1875), she provides a feminist analysis of Darwin’s theory of evolution. In 1920, though blind and in declining health, she cast her vote in the first presidential election after women’s suffrage.
Mrs. Blackwell and Lucy Stone, another prominent early feminist, became very close friends at Oberlin, and Stone later married Mr. Blackwell’s brother Henry. They stayed in close contact through letters from their time at Oberlin until Lucy Stone’s death in 1893. In a letter dated August 1849, Stone, who defied convention and retained her maiden name following her marriage, councils Mrs. Blackwell about her theological studies at Oberlin: