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MC 411

Blackwell family. Papers of the Blackwell family, 1831-1981: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Digitization of this collection in 2015 was made possible by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Record Commission.

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: MC 411
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Blackwell family
Title: Papers of the Blackwell family, 1831-1981
Date(s): 1831-1981
Quantity: 55.13 linear feet (128 file boxes, 1 card file box, 1 folio+ box) plus 4 folio folders, 23 folio+ folders, 13 oversize folders, 4 supersize folders, 46 photograph folders, 2 folio photograph folders, 4 negative boxes, 1 audiocassette)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, diaries, photographs, account books, etc., of four generations of the American branch of the Blackwell family.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 76-415, 80-M62, 80-M277, 81-M246, 81-M255, 82-M41, 83-M207, 90-M124
The papers of the Blackwell Family were given to the Schlesinger Library by Bernard Aspinwall in 1976, and by John Blackwell between 1980 and 1983. Additional papers were purchased from Charles Apfelbaum in 1990.

Processing Information:

Processed: February 1992
By: Jane S. Knowles

Access Restrictions:

Access. Originals closed; use digital images.

Preferred Citation:

Blackwell family Papers, 1831-1981; item description, dates. MC 411, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Blackwell family Papers, 1784-1944 (A-77), Blackwell family Papers, 1835-1963 (A-145), Blackwell family Additional papers, 1851-1972 (MC 715), and Alice Stone Blackwell Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1885-1950 (WRC 17-21).


Samuel Blackwell, sugar refiner and lay preacher, emigrated with his wife Hannah (Lane) Blackwell from England in 1832, bringing eight children and a governess. They landed in New York City, where their youngest son, George Washington Blackwell, was born; they moved to Newark, New Jersey, and then to Cincinnati, Ohio.
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. Each child should be self-supporting: the girls by teaching at home or further afield and the boys in business. The family was bound together in a tight and supportive network even when geographically scattered from Wisconsin to India. Letters circulated constantly among family members: "I find nothing too small to write about," wrote Marian Blackwell (March 10, 1850). Sisters entrusted their savings to their brothers for investment in land; children stayed for months or years with aunts and uncles; and from 1868 on, there were annual summer reunions in Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard.
None of the five sisters 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 Anna, and for the last years of her life lived with Anna in Hastings, England, near their sister Elizabeth.
Both Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) and Emily Blackwell (1826-1910) were pioneering physicians; their biographies may be found in Notable American Women.
Ellen Blackwell (1828-1901) taught school in Cincinnati, 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 her three adopted children, Neenie (Cornelia), Paul Stedwell, and Susie, and often looked after Nannie (Anna), Emily's adopted daughter. These children, Elizabeth's adopted daughter Katherine (Kitty) Barry, and Frances Millette, adopted daughter of Emma and George Blackwell, were raised partly as servants and partly as members of the family. 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.
Samuel Charles Blackwell (1823-1901), was a bookkeeper and dabbled in real estate, but was never a business success. He and his wife, Antoinette (Brown) Blackwell, lived in Somerville, N.J., with their five daughters. Antoinette (Nettie) was the first to be an ordained minister in the Congregationalist church and a well-known reformer (see Notable American Women for a brief biography).
Henry Blackwell (1825-1909), editor, journalist, and businessman; as the last he was involved successively in hardware, sugar refining (developing processes using sorghum and sugar beet instead of sugar cane which was grown with slave labor), and the book trade. With his famous suffragist wife, Lucy Stone (see Notable American Women), he founded The Woman's Journal.
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 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. In 1872 Henry estimated that George was worth $250,000 and that he and his wife Lucy Stone were each worth $50,000. George married Emma Stone Lawrence, niece of Lucy Stone, who before her marriage had been a schoolteacher and assistant on The Woman's Journal. She remained active in the New Jersey and Massachusetts suffrage movements and the Woman's Club of Orange, New Jersey. Among her correspondents were her mother, Sarah (Stone) Lawrence, who taught school in Gardner, Massachusetts, and Cohoes, New York, Clara Barlow, also a school-teacher, and Phoebe (Stone) Beeman, member of the first class of women at Wesleyan University (1876).
In addition to the adopted children (who proved loyal companions to their foster parents), the third U.S. generation consisted of three principal family groups. Alice Stone Blackwell, daughter of Henry Blackwell and Lucy Stone, maintained the reform traditions of her parents (see Notable American Women: The Modern Period). Sam and Nettie had five daughters: Ethel Blackwell Robinson (who married Alfred Brokos Robinson) and Edith were physicians; Grace Blackwell was an invalid who never married; Agnes, an artist and professor of art, married lawyer Tom Jones; and Florence married Elliot Mayhew. Howard, son of George Washington and Emma 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 in 1918, and organizer of the Memorial Hall Dining Association. Later he carried on his father's real estate interests. He and his wife Helen (Thomas) had three sons: George, John, and Lane, and were long-time Cambridge residents. Howard's sister Anna attended Smith College for one year (1904-1905) and married Charles Belden, librarian of the Massachusetts State Library, in 1908. They had four children: Elizabeth, Lane, Charles, and Allison.
For further information about the Blackwell family, see Elinor Rice Hays, Those Extraordinary Blackwells (1967).


The collection is arranged in five series:


This collection, which spans four generations of the United States branch of the Blackwell family, complements other collections of Blackwell family papers in the Schlesinger Library. It was largely assembled by George Washington Blackwell and his descendants. About half the papers were dated and tied into chronologically arranged bundles by George Washington Blackwell, who was often the ultimate recipient of letters that had been addressed to a different sibling and that were circulated among the whole family. The other half of the collection consisted of loose, unsorted papers. For clarity, the collection has been arranged by name of correspondent/author, in four series, one for each generation. The fifth series consists of photographs and memorabilia.
Series I, Samuel Blackwell (1790-1838) and Hannah (Lane) Blackwell, 1831-1966 (inclusive), 1831-1870 (bulk) (#4-15v), consists of letters between husband and wife; Hannah Lane Blackwell's advice and moral precepts to children; Samuel Blackwell's business records relating to his United States sugar-refining business; and his observations on the Irish dating from a visit prior to his emigration.
Series II, Children of Samuel and Hannah (Lane) Blackwell, 1833-1981 (#16-640), is arranged by birth order. There are also correspondence and papers of English cousins: Kenyon Blackwell and Marie Blackwell, later Mme. Droussart, and Samuel H. Blackwell, and correspondence and papers of relatives of Emma Stone (Lawrence) Blackwell.
Subseries A, Anna Blackwell (1816-1900), 1833-1899 (#16-31). Letters from Anna Blackwell in France to family include sisterly advice to George on, interalia, whom to marry and what qualities to look for in a wife, and business and investment concerns; other letters describe life in Paris, including the aftermath of the siege (1870), hardships, work prospects, and ill health. There are also her writings, letters from Napoleon III, Camille Flammarion, and Prince Orlov, possibly collected by Anna Blackwell, her will, and papers about her estate.
Subseries B, Marian Blackwell (1818-1897), 1838-1896 (#32-44): letters to family about teaching in New York, news of family in France and England, and papers about her will and estate.
Subseries C, Elizabeth Blackwell, MD (1821-1910), 1836-1979 (inclusive), 1850-1907 (bulk) (#45-89v). Letters to Emily describe schoolteaching in North Carolina, experiences during medical training, and medical practice in Europe. Letters to George contain sisterly advice and discussions of business investments and profits from her New York practice. Other correspondents include Emily Davies, English feminist, Sophia Jex-Blake, and Florence Nightingale. There are miscellaneous writings on medical matters by Elizabeth Blackwell and others, clippings about Elizabeth Blackwell, and the prospectus of the Blackwell school, 1838-1840.
Subseries D, Samuel Charles Blackwell (1823-1901), 1837-1901 (#90-108), sent detailed news of all the family, including his wife Antoinette (Brown) Blackwell to brother George. His business papers include correspondence with Salomon Alofsen and with his English cousin Samuel H. Blackwell; also his will, and estate papers.
Subseries E. Antoinette (Brown) Blackwell (1825-1921), 1873-1975 (inclusive), 1873-1913 (bulk) (#109-114af+): letters to George and Emma and other family, clippings about Antoinette Brown Blackwell, and miscellaneous letters to her.
Subseries F, Henry Browne Blackwell (1825-1909), 1844-1915 (#115-147). Letters to George concern investments, the family's wealth and prospects, and lecture profits of his wife, Lucy Stone; also health and arrangements for mother's care; and the final illness, death, and cremation of Lucy Stone. There are also miscellaneous writings of Henry Browne Blackwell, business correspondence, draft of marriage vows, materials about Henry Browne Blackwell, and one letter from Oliver Wendell Holmes.
Subseries G, Lucy Stone (1818-1893), 1837-1981 (inclusive), 1845-1944 (bulk) (#148-162), includes letters to brother Frank Stone about Oberlin and anti-slavery; letter to Emily about Henry's relationship with Mrs. Patton; notes to Emma and George about family visits, etc.; a letter from Susan B. Anthony about the effect of Lucy's motherhood on the suffrage campaign, and equal pay for equal work; miscellaneous printed writings on anti-slavery and suffrage; estate papers; and clippings about Lucy Stone.
Subseries H, Emily Blackwell, MD (1826-1910), 1842-1975 (inclusive), 1845-1910 (bulk) (#163-192). Letters to Elizabeth discuss medical training for women, patients, and medical practice in the United States and Europe, and give detailed news and frank opinions about the family especially the rift between Henry and Lucy. Letters to George give advice and discuss travel and business. Emily received letters from Dr. Elizabeth Custrier, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi, and others. Miscellaneous writings and clippings about Emily Blackwell and the New York Infirmary for Women and Children are also included.
Subseries I, Sarah Ellen Blackwell (1828-1901), 1846-1911 (#193-233). Letters to George and Emma, correspondence with publishers and others about her life of Anna Ella Carroll, and material about the anti-vivisection movement.
Subseries J. John Howard Blackwell (1831-1866), 1846-1867 (#234-235): letters to family and estate papers.
Subseries K. George Washington Blackwell (1832-1912), 1837-1935 (#236-468v). In addition to courtship letters, letters to his wife, Emma Lawrence, son, and other family contain business and moral advice. George Washington Blackwell also wrote notes about family health, diet, and travel. There are records of George Washington Blackwell's legal practice and financial records, deeds, and other agreements relating to land sales and real estate interests in Iowa, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, 1850s-1910.
Subseries L. Emma Stone (Lawrence) Blackwell (1851-1920), 1849-1923 (#469-573). Letters to family include humorous descriptions of the horrors of teaching in Washington, DC (1870s). In addition to courtship, later family letters discuss children's behavior, health, and diet, and give evidence of a close mother-son relationship. Emma kept records of the Orange (New Jersey) Woman's Club, and of New Jersey and Massachusetts suffrage associations, and notes on household management and social calls in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Subseries M. Miscellaneous compositions associated with second generation Blackwells, 1844-1908 (#574-595o). Family Christmas Annuals and other writings.
Subseries N. Other Blackwells and others, 1849-1901 (#596-599). Correspondence of other Blackwells, and one letter from Catherine Beecher.
Subseries O. Stone family relatives including Barlow, Beeman, and Lawrence families, 1845-1918 (#600-640). Correspondence of Emma Lawrence Blackwell's parents, Henry and Sarah (Stone) Lawrence, of cousins Phoebe (Stone) Beeman, Clara Barlow.
Series III. Third generation Blackwells, 1870-1965 (#641-996) is arranged into nine subseries by family.
Subseries A. Katharine (Kitty) Barry Blackwell (1849-1938), 1870-1936 (#641-650): correspondence with family, and reminiscences of her adoptive mother, Elizabeth Blackwell ("Doctor").
Subseries B. Children of Samuel Charles and Antoinette (Brown) Blackwell, 1870-1946 (#651-658): Ethel (Blackwell) Robinson, Agnes (Blackwell) Jones, Grace, Edith, Florence (Blackwell) Mayhew. Letters to Emma and Howard Blackwell, and insurance policies.
Subseries C. Alice Stone Blackwell (1857-1950), 1871-1951 (#659-712): letters to family, principally George and Emma, Howard and Helen; records about closing The Woman's Journal, ca.1917; clippings about Alice Stone Blackwell; and miscellaneous writings and translations.
Subseries D. Adopted children of Emily and Sarah Ellen Blackwell, 1880-1937 (#713-715): letters to family.
Subseries E. Howard Lane Blackwell (1877-1972), 1883-1964 (#716-900f). Howard Lane Blackwell's letters to his parents and wife record childhood, courtship, and married life; Harvard memorabilia document his experience as an undergraduate, graduate student, and administrator. Advertisements and business correspondence document his real estate interests.
Subseries F. Helen Electa (Thomas) Blackwell (b. 1880), 1895-1965 (#901-#951). Courtship and other letters to her husband (Howard Lane Blackwell) and family are followed by miscellaneous writings and translations, business correspondence, flyers, recipes, songs, and music illustrating middle class life and social customs in Cambridge, Massachusetts; also letters and papers of the Thomas family, Helen Thomas Blackwell's relatives.
Subseries G. Thomas family (relatives of Helen Thomas Blackwell), 1900-1954 (#952-965). Correspondence with husband Charles Belden and other family concerns courtship and student life at Smith College, 1904-1905.
Subseries H. Anna (Blackwell) Belden, 1890-1963 (#966-989), adopted daughter of George and Emma Blackwell: letters to family and school notebooks.
Subseries I. Frances Millette, 1891-1937 (#990-996).
Series IV. Fourth generation Blackwells, 1900-1981 (#997-1008). Correspondence of the children of Howard Lane and Helen (Thomas) Blackwell and of Charles and Anna (Blackwell) Belden includes letters among family members and about the Blackwell family papers.
Series V, Photographs and Memorabilia (#1009f-1066m). Photographs, glass plate and other negatives (mainly by Howard Lane Blackwell) depict family members, their houses, and travels. Memorabilia belonged to Elizabeth Blackwell, Lucy Stone, and Alice Stone Blackwell.
There is no folder #1043.


Container List

Additional Index Terms

Account books
Antislavery movements
Cambridge (Mass.)--Social life and customs
Home economics
Ireland--Social life and customs--19th century
Orange (N.J.)--Social life and customs
Real estate business--Massachusetts
Real estate business--New Jersey
Real estate business--Wisconsin
Women in medicine
Women in science
Women physicians
Women--Societies and clubs
Anthony, Susan B. (Susan Brownell), 1820-1906
Beecher, Catharine Esther, 1800-1878
Beeman, Phoebe Stone
Belden, Anna Blackwell, 1883-1978
Blackwell, Alice Stone, 1857-1950
Blackwell, Anna, active 1875-1876
Blackwell, Antoinette Louisa Brown, 1825-1921
Blackwell, Elizabeth, 1821-1910
Blackwell, Emily, 1826-1910
Blackwell, Emma Stone Lawrence, 1851-1920
Blackwell, George Washington, 1832-1912
Blackwell, Hannah Lane, 1792-1870
Blackwell, Helen Electa Thomas, 1880-1972
Blackwell, Henry Browne, 1825-1909
Blackwell, Howard Lane, 1877-1972
Blackwell, John Howard, 1831-1866
Blackwell, Kitty Barry, 1848-1936
Blackwell, Marian, 1818-1897
Blackwell, Samuel, 1790-1838
Blackwell, Samuel Charles, 1823-1901
Blackwell, Sarah Ellen, 1828-1901
Bodichon, Barbara Leigh Smith, 1827-1891
Carroll, Anna Ella, 1815-1894
Catt, Carrie Chapman, 1859-1947
Davies, Emily, 1830-1921
Flammarion, Camille, 1842-1925
Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872
Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 1809-1894
Jacobi, Mary Putnam, 1842-1906
Jex-Blake, Sophia, 1849-1912
Jones, Agnes Blackwell
Livermore, Mary Ashton Rice, 1820-1905
Mayhew, Florence Blackwell
Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, 1808-1873
Nightingale, Florence, 1820-1910
Oberlin College--Students
Orlov, P. N. (Petr Nikolaevich)
Stone, Lucy, 1818-1893
Vassar, Matthew, 1792-1868
Wesleyan University (Middletown, Conn.)--Students