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, N.J., 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 (3/10/1850). 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, N.J., 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, N.Y., 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, N.J. Among her correspondents were her mother, Sarah (Stone) Lawrence, who taught school in Gardner, Mass., and Cohoes, N.Y., 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 1906-1910, lecturer in physics 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).
From the guide to the Papers, 1832-1981, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)
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