Antoinette Blackwell

Antoinette Blackwell, née Antoinette Louisa Brown

*May 20, 1825 (Henrietta, New York, United States)
†November 5, 1921 (Elizabeth, New Jersey, United States)

Spouse: Samuel Charles Blackwell,

Children: Florence, Edith, Grace, Ethel and Agnes Blackwell

Antoinette Blackwell was an American theologist, philosopher and the first woman to be ordained as a Protestant minister in the United States. Blackwell was born as the seventh child to Joseph Brown and Abby Morse in Henrietta, upstate New York. She was discovered to be a precocious child as early as three years old and began to speak at meetings of her family’s Congregational church at an early age. After studying at Monroe County Academy, she continued to work there as a teacher for a few years before she decided to pursue a higher education. She enrolled in the non-degree “Course for Ladies” at Oberlin College in 1846, the first to open its doors to women. After graduation, she insisted on being admitted to the theology course against the resistance of the faculty and was eventually allowed to attend lectures without being awarded a degree. After the completion of the course, Blackwell pursued a career as a lecturer, giving speeches on aspects of the reform movement and at women’s rights conventions, soon achieving a reputation as a renowned public speaker. On September 15, 1853, the Congregational Church of South Butler ordained her as their pastor, thus making her the first woman minister of a recognized denomination in the United States. In 1856, she married Samuel Charles Blackwell, with whom she had five daughters and who shared her believe that not just political, but also economic and social roles of both men and women needed to be radically transformed. Although she retired from her public role, Blackwell carried on with her studies, resulting in several, articles, novels, poems and books about social and philosophical issues. A year before her death in 1921, Blackwell was one of the very few pioneer suffragists who voted for the first time on November 2, 1920.

Kristin Käuper

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