Blackwell family members used energy, zeal, and reform-mindedness to work for reform in a number of arenas in United States society. These brief biographies of Blackwells whose papers are part of this collection show the wide range of family interests.
Samuel Blackwell (c.1790–1838), a sugar refiner and lay preacher, wanted his daughters educated as well as his sons—he passed his interest in social reform on to his children. Samuel and his wife Hannah Lane Blackwell moved with their children and a governess from England to New York City in 1832, when Samuel’s sugar refinery was destroyed in a fire. Although Samuel started another refinery, his idealistic attempts to use beet sugar rather than cane sugar (which was produced by slave labor) were unsuccessful. After three years in New York City, the family moved to New Jersey. There they suffered further financial losses during the Panic of 1837 and relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio in May 1838. Samuel died in August that same year.
Hannah Blackwell (1792-1870). Hannah and Samuel had nine children. After Samuel Blackwell’s death in 1838, Hannah, her sister-in-law Mary Blackwell, and daughters opened a school for boys and girls to support the family and pay for the education of the boys. Her intent was for each child to be self-supporting: the girls by teaching at home or further afield and the boys in business. None of her five daughters married.
Anna Blackwell (1816-1900) was a poet, translator, and journalist, taught school, was a member of the Brook Farm community in 1845 and settled in France thereafter. She translated the works of the French socialist Fourier and the novels of Georges Sand. She was a contributing correspondent for as many as eleven newspapers (in the United States, India, Australia, South Africa, and Canada), writing a weekly column under the pseudonym “Fidelitas” on whatever the editors wished: “either purely gossip, purely political or mixed according to the need of their papers.” Towards the end of her life, she lived at Triel, France, and wasted her assets in a fruitless search for the lost treasure of King James II of England.
Marian Blackwell (1818-1897), a semi-invalid, was briefly a schoolteacher, kept house for her sister Elizabeth in New York, and then looked after her mother in Roseville, New Jersey, until the latter’s death in 1872. She lived in Europe thereafter, often with her sister Anna, and for the last years of her life lived with Anna in Hastings, England, near their sister Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, as well as the first woman on the UK Medical Register. She was the first woman (identified as such) to graduate from medical school. Accepted by Geneva Medical College in 1847, she graduated in 1849. In 1853, Elizabeth established a small dispensary in New York City which her sister Emily and Dr. Marie Zakrzewska joined in its early years. By 1857, they had expanded the original dispensary into the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children. Elizabeth continued to break ground in pursuing medical training in Europe, making several trips to England to raise funds and to try to establish a parallel infirmary project there. In 1868, Elizabeth and Emily founded the Women’s Medical College in New York as an adjunct to the infirmary. They were both involved in the organization of the US Sanitary Commission during the US Civil War. The sisters had conflicting ideas about medicine and the college’s management, so Elizabeth left again for England in 1869 and ultimately settled there. In 1874 Elizabeth and Sophia Jex-Blake founded the London School of Medicine for Women. Elizabeth Blackwell adopted Katherine “Kitty” Barry in 1856, raising her as a half- servant, half-daughter. For more detailed information about Elizabeth Blackwell, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Blackwell.
Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, as well as the first woman on the UK Medical Register. She was the first woman (identified as such) to graduate from medical school. Accepted by Geneva Medical College in 1847, she graduated in 1849. In 1853, Elizabeth established a small dispensary with her sister Emily and Dr. Marie Zakrzewska in New York City. By 1857, they had expanded the original dispensary into the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children. Elizabeth continued to break ground in pursuing medical training in Europe, making several trips to England to raise funds and to try to establish a parallel infirmary project there. In 1868, Elizabeth and Emily founded the Women’s Medical College in New York as an adjunct to the infirmary. They were both involved in the organization of the US Sanitary Commission during the US Civil War. The sisters had conflicting ideas about medicine and the college’s management, so Elizabeth left again for England in 1869 and ultimately settled there. In 1874 Elizabeth and Sophia Jex-Blake founded the London School of Medicine for Women. Elizabeth Blackwell adopted Katherine “Kitty” Barry in 1856, raising her as a half- servant, half-daughter. For more detailed information about Elizabeth Blackwell, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Blackwell.
Samuel Charles Blackwell (1823-1901), was a bookkeeper, dabbled in real estate, and was never a financial success. He married Antoinette (Brown) Blackwell, reformer, orator, and minister, in 1856. They lived in Somerville, New Jersey, with their five daughters: Ethel (Blackwell) Robinson, Agnes (Blackwell) Jones, Grace, Edith, and Florence (Blackwell) Mayhew.
Henry Blackwell (1825-1909), was an editor, journalist, and businessman. His successive business ventures were in hardware, sugar refining (developing processes using sorghum and sugar beet instead of sugar cane grown with slave labor), and the book trade. With his wife, Lucy Stone, he founded The Woman’s Journal. For more detailed information about Henry Blackwell, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Browne_Blackwell..
Emily Blackwell (1826-1910) was the third American woman to earn a medical degree. Inspired by the example of her older sister Elizabeth, she studied medicine, earning her degree in 1854. After she and Elizabeth founded the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children in 1857, Emily took responsibility for its management. For 40 years she oversaw surgery, nursing, and bookkeeping. During the Civil War Emily helped organize the Women’s Central Association of Relief, which selected and trained nurses for service in the war, and with Elizabeth, helped to develop the US Sanitary Commission. In 1868 the Blackwell sisters established the Women’s Medical College. Emily became professor of obstetrics and, in 1869 when Elizabeth moved to London, Emily became dean of the college. She adopted a daughter, called Nannie. At the turn of the century, Emily Blackwell retired with her partner, doctor Elizabeth Cushier. For more detailed information about Emily Blackwell, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Blackwell..
Sarah Ellen Blackwell (1828-1901), was known to the family primarily as “Ellen.” She taught school in Cincinnati, Ohio, studied and taught art in New York, studied design in Paris, and took classes with John Ruskin in London. Unlike her older siblings, Ellen returned to the United States. She first kept house for Emily and then settled in a house in Lawrence, New York, where she raised several adopted children: Cornelia, called “Neenie,” and Paul Stedwell. In 1885, Ellen took up the cause of Anna Ella Carroll, allegedly a military strategist during the Civil War; Ellen wrote her biography and lobbied for her federal pension. She was an avid supporter of the anti-vivisection movement.
Howard Blackwell (ca. 1830-1866) worked in England with his English cousin Samuel H. Blackwell in iron manufacturing and then joined the East India Company. His early death was a sad loss particularly for his eldest sister Anna.
George Washington Blackwell (1832-1912), was the youngest sibling, and the recipient of much advice from his older siblings. He went west to Wisconsin as a wheat trader and land agent in the 1850s, then studied law in New York City, and eventually took up real estate. George married Emma Stone Lawrence, niece of Lucy Stone, in 1876. They had two children: Howard Lane Blackwell, and Anna (Blackwell) Belden, and an adopted daughter, Frances Millette.
Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825-1921) was the first woman to be an ordained minister in the Congregationalist church and a noted reformer. She attended Oberlin College and at first obtained a degree in Literary Studies and returned to study theology although Oberlin, objecting to a public role for women, declined to grant her a degree. Eventually she was ordained by a congregation. She was a noted orator and entered the lecture circuit as an anti-slavery activist. She went on to become an ardent proponent of women’s rights and was a leading figure in the dominant social reform movements of the 19th century, abolition of slavery, women’s rights, and temperance. She married Samuel Charles Blackwell in 1856, and lived in Somerville, New Jersey, with their five daughters: Ethel (Blackwell) Robinson, Agnes (Blackwell) Jones, Grace, Edith, and Florence (Blackwell) Mayhew. She died in 1921 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, at the age of 96 after casting her vote in an election, a right that she had fought long and hard to obtain. For more detailed information about Antoinette Brown Blackwell, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoinette_Brown_Blackwell..
Lucy Stone (1818-1893) was a prominent American abolitionist and suffragist, and a vocal advocate and organizer promoting rights for women. In 1847, Stone was the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree when she graduated from Oberlin. She spoke out for women’s rights and against slavery at a time when women were discouraged and prevented from public speaking. Stone married Henry Browne Blackwell in 1855, but she did not let the institution of marriage constrain her; Lucy Stone was the first recorded American woman to retain her own last name after marriage. Henry Blackwell and Lucy Stone founded a weekly newspaper, The Woman's Journal, in 1870. They edited the produced the paper themselves, joined in 1881 by their only daughter, Alice Stone Blackwell. For more detailed information about Lucy Stone see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Stone.
Emma (Stone Lawrence) Blackwell (1851-1920), niece of Lucy Stone, worked as a schoolteacher in Washington, DC, and an assistant on The Woman’s Journal. She married George Washington Blackwell in 1876, and had two children: Howard Lane Blackwell, and Anna (Blackwell) Belden, and an adopted daughter, Frances Millette. Emma Stone Lawrence remained active in the New Jersey and Massachusetts suffrage movements.
Alice Stone Blackwell (1857–1950), daughter of Henry Blackwell and Lucy Stone, was a feminist, journalist, and human rights advocate. She was an editor (1881–1917) of The Woman’s Journal, the major publication of the women’s rights movement at that time, first as assistant to her parents and after their deaths as editor in chief. From 1890 to 1908 Alice was the National American Woman Suffrage Association’s recording secretary and in 1909 and 1910 one of the national auditors. She was also prominent in Woman’s Christian Temperance Union activities. She created the “Friends of Armenia” in 1893 in response to worsening treatment by the Russians. In 1903 she reorganized the Society of Friends of Russian Freedom (SAFRF) in Boston. For more detailed information about Alice Stone Blackwell, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Stone_Blackwell.
Katherine “Kitty” Barry Blackwell (1849-1936), an Irish orphan, was adopted by Elizabeth Blackwell in 1856, while living at the House of Refuge on Randall’s Island, New York City. She took the Blackwell name in 1920.
Howard Lane Blackwell (1876-1972), son of Emma (Lawrence) and George Washington Blackwell, earned three degrees from Harvard: A.B. 1899, A.M. 1900, and Ph.D. (in physics) 1905. He was comptroller of Harvard from 1906 to 1910; a lecturer in physics, 1918; and organizer of the Memorial Hall Dining Association. Later he carried on his father's real estate interests. He married Helen Electa Thomas in 1907; they had three sons: George H. Blackwell, John Thomas Blackwell, and Howard Lane Blackwell, Jr., and were long-time residents of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Anna (Blackwell) Belden (1883-1978), daughter of Emma (Lawrence) and George Washington Blackwell, attended Smith College for one year (1904-1905) and married Charles E.D. Belden, librarian of the Massachusetts State Library, in 1908. They had four children: Elizabeth Blackwell Belden, Lawrence Putnam Belden, Charles Hastings Belden, and Allison Belden.