Thursday, February 07, 2013

Leaders of Social Reform in 18th, 19th, and 20th Century America 
Grant From the National Historical Publications and Records Commission 

Elizabeth Blackwell, ca. 1850-1860.*

BOSTON, Mass.— January 29, 2013—The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study today announces the launch of a new Blackwell Family digitization project supported by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) (Link: The $150,000 grant funds a two-year project ( to digitize five Blackwell Family collections, which span from 1784 to 1981 and detail the activities of members of the Blackwell family, who were leaders in abolition, prohibition, healthcare, women’s suffrage, and education.

“We are grateful to receive this grant from the NHPRC to digitize our archival collections of the Blackwell Family, who were leaders of historical importance in the social reform movements of the 18th to 20th century. This digitization project helps bring the library’s holdings on the lives and work of women in America to researchers and the public in new online formats,” said Marilyn Dunn, executive director of the Schlesinger Library and librarian of the Radcliffe Institute.

The grant enables the Schlesinger Library to digitize 189,074 pages of the Blackwell Family collection, featuring correspondence, diaries, financial records, photographs, drawings, writings, and other papers of four generations of the US branch of the family, assembled by George Washington Blackwell and his descendants.

The collection records travel, professional work, and civic and reform activities of the members of the close-knit family. Among the most well-known members are Elizabeth (1821–1910), the first woman to earn a medical degree, and her sister Emily (1826–1910), also among the first woman doctors. Both women fought for public health reform and equal education and medical training for women. Their brother Henry Browne Blackwell (1825–1909), his wife, Lucy Stone (1818–1893), and their daughter Alice Stone Blackwell (1857–1950) are known for their leadership roles in the abolition, women’s suffrage, and prohibition movements. Their sister-in-law Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825–1921), wife of Samuel Charles Blackwell (1823–1901), was the first woman ordained as a minister in the United States and an active speaker on behalf of abolition, women’s rights, and prohibition.

The Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute will invest an additional $150,000 to meet the cost of the project, “Those Extraordinary Blackwells: Leaders of Social Reform in 19th and 20th Century America.” The scheduled completion of the digitization project is June 2015.

About the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University is dedicated to creating and sharing transformative ideas across the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences. The Fellowship Program annually supports the work of 50 leading artists and scholars. Academic Ventures fosters collaborative research projects and sponsors lectures and conferences that engage scholars with the public. The Schlesinger Library documents the lives of American women of the past and present for the future, furthering the Institute’s commitment to women, gender, and society. Learn more about the people and programs of the Radcliffe Institute at

* Image: Courtesy of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.

Karla Strobel


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