BLACKWELL, ANTOINETTE LOUISA BROWN (20 May 1825 Henrietta, NY-S November 1921, Elizabeth NJ) Education Completed the literary course, Oberlin College, 1847, completed the
theological course Oberlin College, 1850, but denied degree Career Lecturer and preacher 1850 52 minister, Congregational Church South Butler, NY, 1852 54 social worker New York, 1855; homemaker, author, lecturer, principally in Newark and Somerville, NJ, and New York, 1856 1901, founder and pastor
emeritus All Souls Unitarian Church, Elizabeth, NJ, 1908-21.
Antoinette Brown Blackwell was one of the pioneers in the women's rights movement in nineteenth century America. She began her struggles in the feminist cause by gaining entrance to Oberlin, completing a literary course in 1847 and a theological course in 1850. But she was denied her degree and license to preach because of her sex. She sought her own opportunities to preach and lecture, expounding women's rights, the abolition of slavery, and temperance. In 1852 she became the first regularly ordained American woman, although the ordination did not have full denominational support. In 1853 she raised controversy by attempting to exercise her right as a delegate to speak at the World's Temperance Convention in New York, but because of the prejudice against women in the pulpit, she was denied her request to speak. Unable to affirm the orthodox tenets of Congregationalism, she resigned her pastorate in 1854, be-coming a Unitarian thereafter. Her marriage in 1856 to Samuel C. Blackwell was long and successful. She raised a large family and continued to stay active as an author, devoting much effort to the question of the relation of theology to modern science. One of her works, The Sexes throughout Nature (1875), was a feminist critique of the evolutionary theories of Darwin and Spencer, in which she argued that nature demonstrated the equality of the sexes throughout the species. Late in her life she organized a Unitarian Church in Elizabeth, NJ, and continued to be a presence in the feminist movement, living to cast her vote, at age ninety-five, in the 1920 election. She stands as one of the most accomplished and fascinating of America's early feminists.
A The Sexes throughout Nature (New York, 1875); Philosophy of Individualiuty (New York, 1892); The Making of the Universe (Boston, 1914); The Social Side of mind and Action (New York, 1915).
B. DAB 2, 319-20; Heralds 4, 52-54; NAW 1, 158-61; Elinor Rice Hays, Those Extraordinary Blackwells (New York, 1967); Catherine F. Hitchings, "Universalist and Unitarian Women Ministers," JUHS, 10 (1975), 155-56; Elizabeth Cazden, Antoineete Brown Blackwell: A Biography (Old Westbury, NY, 1983).