Exhibitions

Women of the Blackwell Family

Resilience and Change
Women of the Blackwell Family

Women of the Blackwell Family: Resilience and Change opens on July 5, 2016, and runs through October 21, 2016.

It will be on view on the first floor of the Schlesinger Library, Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Free and open to the public.


The Blackwells were a multigenerational family of abolitionists, entrepreneurs, educators, musicians, doctors, writers, expatriates, suffrage supporters, and women’s rights activists. The family was characterized not only by their ideals, but also by strong personalities and complex relationships.

This exhibition focuses on seven women of the Blackwell family from 1830 to 1950. Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman doctor in the United States, persevering through physical disability and societal obstacles. Her sister Emily became the third woman doctor in the United States and the dean of the Woman’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary. Their sister Anna was more of a free spirit, a writer and translator who spent much of her life in France. Their mother, Hannah Blackwell, widowed in 1838 only six years after arriving in the United States, raised these independent women largely alone. Antoinette Brown Blackwell was an orator and the first woman minister in the country. Lucy Stone, known for refusing to give up her maiden name when she married, was an abolitionist, a tireless orator for women’s rights, and an editor and publisher of the Woman’s Journal with husband Henry Blackwell. Lucy’s daughter, Alice Stone Blackwell, continued her parents’ suffrage work, becoming a leader in the movement for women’s right to vote.

The items selected for exhibition—from the library’s extensive collections of Blackwell Family Papers and related materials—highlight personal and professional relationships, including with many of the most important and influential thinkers of the 19th century. Considered collectively, they reveal a family who was always on the move and who—despite numerous hardships—turned their beliefs into action for the improvement of society.