Antoinette Louisa Brown, later Antoinette Brown Blackwell (May 20, 1825 – November 5, 1921), was the first woman to be ordained as a minister in the United States. She was a well-versed public speaker on the paramount issues of her time, and distinguished herself from her contemporaries with her use of religious faith in her efforts to expand women's rights.
With regard to her own prospect of marriage, Brown believed that it was best to remain single, because single women experienced greater levels of independence than married women. Upon meeting Samuel Blackwell, her opinions began to waver in favor marriage. The two married in 1856, and had seven children, but two died in infancy.
Brown continued her career until domestic responsibilities combined with her disagreement with many aspects of the women's rights movement and caused her to discontinue lecturing. Writing became her new outlet for initiation positive change for women; in her works she encouraged women to seek out masculine professions, and asked men to share in household duties, yet she retained the belief that women's primary role is care of the home and family. Brown was the author of several books in the fields of theology and philosophy. She also combined science and philosophy, writing The Sexes Throughout Nature in 1875, in which she argued that evolution resulted in two sexes that were different but equal. She also wrote a novel, The Island Neighbors, in 1871, and a collection of poetry, Sea Drift, in 1902.
In 1869, Brown and Lucy Stone separated from other preeminent women's rights activists to form the American Woman Suffrage Association in support of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. In 1873, she founded the Association for the Advancement of Women in an attempt to address women's issues that similar organizations ignored. She was elected president of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association in 1891, and helped found the American Purity Association. She also lectured on behalf of the poor of New York City.
Antoinette Brown Blackwell died at the age of 96 in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
2. Brown Blackwell, Antoinette. Vol. 3, in Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopaedia, edited by Anne Commire, 126-131. Waterford, Connecticut: Yorkin Publications, 1999.
3. Burckel, Nicholas C. "Oberlin College." In Handbook of American Women's History, edited by Angela M. Howard and Frances M. Kavenik, 407. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2000.
4. Kerr, Andrea Moore. "Blackwell, Antoinette (Brown) (1825-1921)." In Handbook of American Women's History, edited by Angela M. Howard and Frances M. Kavenik, 72. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2000.
5. Lasser, Carol. Blackwell, Antoinette Louisa Brown. Vol. 2, in American National Biography, edited by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, 890-892. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
6. Women's Rights. Vol. 6, in Encyclopaedia of American History: The Development of the Industrial United States, edited by Gary B. Nash, 316-318. New York: Facts on File, 2003.
7. "The Women's Rights Movement." In Political and Historical Encyclopaedia of Women, edited by Christine Faure, 292-294. New York: Routledge, 2003.
8. Cazden, Elizabeth. Antoinette Brown Blackwell: A Biography. Old Westbury, NY: Feminist Press, 1983.