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Antoinette Louisa Brown Blackwell letter

Biographical note

Antoinette Louisa Brown Blackwell (1825-1921) was a reformer, abolitionist, author, lecturer, and the first woman ordained as a minister in the United States. In 1846, Blackwell enrolled at Oberlin College in Ohio, and by 1847, she had received her literary degree – the only degree available to women at the time. She stayed at Oberlin for three more years to study theology, but the college would not confer her degree or allow her to be ordained as a minister. She then began working as an independent lecturer, speaking against slavery and on woman’s rights and temperance throughout New England, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio. She also preached Sunday sermons when invited to do so. In 1852, Blackwell was asked to take up the ministry of the Congregational Church in South Butler, New York. She was ordained as the church’s minister on September 15, 1853, making her the first woman ordained in a regular denomination in the United States. She resigned from this position in July 1854, but continued to be active in reform movements and women’s rights conventions throughout the country. In 1869, Blackwell founded the American Woman Suffrage Association with Lucy Stone and also published her first book, Studies in general science, detailing her philosophy on life and religion. She went on to write six more books and one book of poetry. In 1878, the American Unitarian Association recognized her as a Unitarian minister. She went on to acquire a grant of land for a Unitarian Church, establishing the All Souls Unitarian Church in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1908. Antoinette Louisa Brown Blackwell died on November 5, 1921.