Developments within that controversy over the next several years shaped her evolving philosophy on women’s rights.
A debate over whether women were entitled to a political voice had begun when many women responded to William Lloyd Garrison’s appeal to circulate antislavery petitions and sent thousands of signatures to Congress only to have them rejected, in part because women had sent them.
Stone was known for using her maiden name after marriage, as the custom was for women to take their husband's surname.
Although Stone recalled that “There was only one will in our family, and that was my father’s,” she described the family government characteristic of her day.
Hannah Stone earned a modest income through selling eggs and cheese but was denied any control over that money, sometimes denied money to purchase things Francis considered trivial.
Women abolitionists responded by holding a convention in New York City to expand their petitioning efforts, and declaring that “as certain rights and duties are common to all moral beings,” they would no longer remain within limits prescribed by “corrupt custom and a perverted application of Scripture.” After sisters Angelina and Sarah Grimke began speaking to audiences of men and women, instead of women only as was acceptable, a state convention of Congregational ministers issued a Pastoral letter condemning women’s assuming “the place of man as a public reformer” and “itinerat[ing] in the character of public lecturers and teachers.” Stone attended the convention as a spectator, and was so angered by the letter that she determined "if ever [I] had anything to say in public, [I] would say it, and all the more because of that pastoral letter." Stone read Sarah Grimke’s “Letters on the Province of Woman” (later republished as “Letters on the Equality of the Sexes”), and told a brother they only reinforced her resolve “to call no man master.” She drew from these "Letters" when writing college essays and her later women’s rights lectures.
Having determined to obtain the highest education she could, Stone enrolled at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1839, at the age of 21.
But she later came to realize that custom was to blame, and the injustice only demonstrated “the necessity of making custom right, if it must rule.” From the examples of her mother, Aunt Sally, and a neighbor neglected by her husband and left destitute, Stone early learned that women were at the mercy of their husbands’ good will.