Colman, Lucy N.

Born in 1818 in Massachusetts, Lucy Newhall Colman embraced the causes of abolitionism and woman’s rights. By 1852 she renounced Universalism. While residing in Rochester, she accepted employment as a teacher in a segregated "colored school." So deeply did she resent its segregation – and also being paid less than half the amount paid to her male predecessor – that she lobbied parents to withdraw their children, allegedly causing the school to close. She established a reputation as a campaigner for liberal causes whose special gift lay in silencing Christian hecklers by throwing their own principles back at them.

Colman married twice, at the ages of eighteen and twenty-six, losing the first husband to consumption and the second to a railroad accident. When her only daughter died in 1862, Colman spurned a traditional funeral, opting instead for a secular memorial conducted by Frederick Douglass. She wholeheartedly embraced freethought.

Attending the 1878 New York State Freethinkers’ Association Convention in Watkins Glen at which atheist publisher D. M. Bennett and two others were arrested for selling a marriage reform and birth control tract, Colman arranged bail for one of the trio and campaigned successfully for charges to be dropped against all three.

She is also known to have spoken at the New York Freethinkers’ Association convention held at Hornellsville on September 2-6, 1880, as did the celebrated agnostic orator Robert Green Ingersoll.

By 1878 she had moved to Syracuse, where she wrote her autobiography, Reminiscences, and died in 1906, aged eighty-eight.