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Alice Stone Blackwell

Alice Stone Blackwell

Biography

Alice Stone Blackwell was born September 14, 1857 in Orange, New Jersey before her parents returned to Boston in 1870. She was the only child of Henry Browne Blackwell and Lucy Stone. Her mother, Lucy Stone, was the first woman to earn a college degree in Massachusetts, the first woman to keep her maiden name when she married and she was also the first woman to speak full-time on woman’s rights; Lucy Stone is credited for introducing the woman’s rights movement to Susan B. Anthony (Balakian 95). Alice also had an aunt, Elizabeth Blackwell, who was the first woman to graduate from medical school in the United States and also “founded The Women’s Medical College” (Balakian 16).

In 1881, Alice Stone Blackwell graduated from Boston University, Phi Beta Kappa. She then went to work as an assistant editor for her parents who founded the Woman’s Journal, the official magazine for the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).

In 1890, Alice led the movement to reconcile the two competing factions of the woman’s suffrage movement—American Woman Suffrage Association and National Woman Suffrage Association—into the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA); she served as the recording secretary of this organization until 1918.

Alice Stone Blackwell
Alice Stone Blackwell, between 1880-1900
Image courtesy of Library of Congress

In 1893, Alice’s “aunt” Isabel Barrows—actively involved in the Armenian movement in Boston—met Ohannes Chatschumian, a theology student, in Leipzig, Germany. Isabel persuaded Ohannes to come visit her and her husband in the United States. Alice Blackwell met Ohannes and “she began to learn in greater detail about the worsening plights of the Armenians” (Balakian 17). “Isabel suggested that Alice and Ohannes collaborate in translating ‘some of Armenia’s touching and beautiful poetry into English verse’” and they began working on “The Tears of Araxes” by Raphael Patkanian (Balakian 18-19).

In the fall of 1893, Lucy Stone died and Alice took the position as editor-in-chief of the Woman’s Journal. It was also “the moment she found her self engaged in the Armenian Question” (Balakian 94). Alice and Ohannes created a society known as “Friends of Armenia” and “before long Friends of Armenia expanded and became central to launching America’s first international human rights movement” (Balakian 19). “For Alice equal rights for women was the bedrock on which her life rested, and her passion for Armenian human rights had its origin there” (Balakian 94). The society provided information about the Armenians and the Armenian Question to American media. Julia Ward Howe—author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic—was president of the society.

In 1894, while Alice and Ohannes were still translating Armenian poetry, Ohannes decided to return back to Leipzig to finish his studies although his health was deteriorating (Balakian 98). “After Ohannes left for Leipzig, Alice teamed up with Bedros Keljik, who translated the remaining poems with her to finish the anthology” (Balakian 101). Ohannes Chatschumian died in May, 1896, the same year Alice had Armenian Poems published.

The anthology presented several dozen poems, most of them by nineteenth century poets such as Bedros Tourian, Michael Nalbandian, and Raphael Patkanian, who were part of a renaissance in Armenian culture…Well armed with appendices, the book had an introduction about Armenian history and the recent massacres, as well as essays about the Armenian church and the advanced status of Armenian women. (Balakian 101)

Due to the book’s success, the first publication sold out within days. It is most likely the only book in the world to be reprinted fifteen days after it was first published. (Mirzabekian)

On May 30, 1904, two hundred of Alice Blackwell’s friends organized a celebration in her honor for ten years of literary work. During the event her portrait painted by Carnig Eksergian—an Armenian American portraitist—was presented to Alice by her Armenian friends. (Mirzabekian)

In addition to Armenian Poems, Alice also translated several other volumes of poetry into English from Russian (Songs of Russia, 1906), Yiddish (Songs of Grief and Gladness, 1907), Spanish (Some Spanish-American poets, 1929), Hungarian and French. In 1917 she edited The Little Grandmother of the Russian Revolution which is about the life of Catherine Breshkovsky.

Also in 1917, the second and enlarged edition of Armenian Poetry was published containing 135 poems in total. Atom Yarjanyan (Siamanto), Daniel Varoujan, Hovhannes Toumanian—along with many others—are some of the poets added to this second publication.

Alice remained the editor in chief of the Woman’s Journal for thirty-five years—until 1918—and then began writing her mother’s biography, Lucy Stone: Pioneer of Woman’s Rights which was published in 1930.

In 1945, Alice received an L.H.D. degree (Doctorate of Humanities) from Boston University in recognition of her work.

When Lucy Stone died in 1893, she was the first New England resident to be cremated. Alice Stone Blackwell followed in her mother’s tradition when she died March 15, 1950 at the age of ninety-two.


WORKS CITED

Balakian, Peter. The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2003.

Mirzabekian, Emma. “The Friend and Translator of Armenian Poetry” (Droog i perevodchik armyanskoj poezii). Planeta Diaspor Magazine. January 24, 2000.


OTHER SOURCES

“Alice Stone Blackwell.” Biography Resource Center October 2003, Gale Group Incorporated.

“Biographies of Suffragists.” University of Rochester October 2003, < http://www.rochester.edu/SBA/biographies.html >.

Blackwell, Alice Stone. Armenian Poems, Rendered into English Verse. Boston, MA: Atlantic Printing Company, 1917.

“Women’s Suffrage.” American Memory, Library of Congress October 2003,
< http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/awhhtml/awmss5/suffrage.html >.

Acknowledgements:

Compiled and edited by: Mary M. Hoogasian
Additional research by: Karen Vrtanesyan

Special thanks to Mr. Aram Arkun and Arevik Garamova for providing additional sources of information.

See also:

Some articles by Alice Stone Blackwell are available in Votes for Women: Selections from the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection, 1848-1921 at the Library of Congress’ web site. (Scroll down to see the list of authors.)

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