One week from today, Mormon women will attend the Priesthood Session of General Conference to show support for women’s ordination. Since January, Mormons have been studying Lorenzo Snow in Relief Society and Priesthood classes. Lorenzo Snow was educated at progressive Oberlin College, the first coeducational college in the United States of America and served as president of the church during the suffrage movement. The timing seems ideal to remember two suffragists who also attended Lorenzo Snow’s alma mater: Antoinette Brown and Lucy Stone.
Lucy Stone sought to become a public speaker advocating for abolition and women’s rights, a scandalous plan at a time when the Biblical injunction to “let your women keep silence” (1 Cor. 14:34) was interpreted quite literally. Antoinette Brown’s plans were even more shocking; she wanted to become a minister, although no female had ever yet been ordained a Protestant minister.
Lucy Stone was raised by strict, traditional parents who believed educating a woman would be a waste of money. When Lucy learned that a new college was admitting women, she was determined to go in spite of the lack of support from her family. She saved for years to attend, finally obtaining enough money to enroll for one semester in 1843 at the age of 25.
At Oberlin, Lucy took several jobs with the hope of earning enough money to stay. During her first two years of college, Lucy slept little, awakening at 2 AM to study as her daytime hours were completely filled with coursework and the multiple jobs she was working to pay for her tuition and board. At her dishwashing job, she would prop her books up by the sink so she could study as she worked.