Lucy Stone (1818-1893) – By Any Other Name

Well the next thing I had to do as to join the Lucy Stone league, so that I could keep my own maiden name after matrimony.  Because a girl’s name should be Sacred, and when she uses her husbands it only sinks her identity.  And when a girl always insists on her own maiden name,  with vialents, it lets people know what she must be important some place or other.  And quite a  good place to insist on an unmarried name, is when you go to some strange hotel accompanied  by a husband. Because when a room  clerck notes that a girl with a  maiden name is in the same room with a gentleman, it starts quite a little explanation, and makes a girl feel quite promanent before everybody in the lobby.

But Dorothy said I had better be careful.    I mean, she says that most Lucy Stoners do not really worry the room clerck, because they are generally the type that are only brought to hotels om account of  matrimony.  But Dorothy  said that when Henry and I waltz in and ask for a  room with my maiden name the clerck would probably take one good look at me, and hand Henry a room in the local jail for the Man act.  

But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, Anita Loos  (all spellings utterly sic)Mrs. Allen has been reading Gentlemen Prefer Blondes these past few days and reciting the best bits from it (and they are many- the movie is pale travesty).  We had an old copy while I was growing up,  once the possession of my chicissima grandmother who was of an age in the 1920’s, though of a slightly more dignified social set.   I read it years ago,  I had never read But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes,  and so when my wife began taking bits out of that, not least of all the above quote, was forced to beetle off to find out Lucy Stone might have been.

Not as entertaining a woman as Lorelei Lee, it will come as no surprise.  Lucy Stone  was a farm child born in West Brookfield, Massachusetts to a family of stalwart Congregationalists and Abolitionists.  However progressive the parents were on the slavery issue, the father at least, was rather less so on the proper place of women.  No keeping Lucy down – it took nine years, but she cobbled together enough money to head west to Oberlin College (the only college that would take women at the time) and take her degree, and so becoming the first woman from Massachusetts to get a college degree.

From then on, she became a speechifier and activist on  Abolition and and women’s rights, most notably for the Garrisonian Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society (they weren’t all that keen on her diluting the anti-slavery part with the women’s right’s part).  She helped organize the first national Women’s Rights  convention in Worchester Mass.,  1850,  in which year she also married Henry Blackwell, a fellow suffragist and hardware store proprietor.   She went on to found the American Woman Suffrage Association in 1869.  Other favored causes were Temperance and Dress Reform.

And what about the league?  Well, if Ms Stone was remembered for anything,  it was for her determination not to share her husband’s name.   The idea took hold again in 1921 when  Jane Grant and Ruth Hale, journalists of some repute, founded the Lucy Stoner League,  “a band of proficient crusaders whose purpose is to preserve for the American woman the identity of her own name”.

For Hale, it was the practical outgrowth of a contretemps she had had the year before in attempting to get a passport in her preferred name.  They relented far enough to style her as  “Ruth Hale, also known as Mrs. Heywood Broun”.  She refused to take it, cancelling the trip instead.   (What a lost opportunity!  A unique document, up there with the inverted Jenny, and now gone forever.  Well, she did just say, “Thank God I am not cursed with the albatross of a sense of humor” – though we can hope she was kidding.)

Ms Grant – she was wife of Harold Ross with whom she founded the New Yorker, which explains some of the other members, e.g.  Janet Flanner who did not take on the name of artist William “Lane” Rehm (they divorced amicably in 1926).    George S. Kaufman’s wife Beatrice Bakrow as well.

And, bringing us full circle – Anita Loos.

Who was blessed with an absolute hummingbird of a sense of humor.

I bet she would have kept the passport.


FOOTNOTE – Correspondent Sally Pemberton has alerted me to her Portrait of Murdock Pemberton, which man and which book I had not previously been aware of.  He was the first art critic of the New Yorker.  If the magazine was not for the little old lady from Dubuque, what irony that this fellow should be from Kansas.  He sounds worth reading about.

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