Woman Making History #32: Matilda Joslyn Gage


Matilda Joslyn GageMatilda Joslyn Gage was a woman's suffragist, Native American activist, abolitionist, author, lecturer, and general freethinking radical. She was born in Cicero, New York in 1826 and, the child of famous anti-slavery advocate Dr. Hezekiah Joslyn, spent her childhood in a house which served as a station for the underground railroad.

In 1845, Gage married a merchant, Henry Hill Gage. She and her husband settled in Fayetteville, New York, and their home, too, became a haven for fleeing slaves. The Gages had four children.

In 1852, Gage became involved in the struggle for increased civil rights and suffrage for women, speaking at the National Women's Rights Convention in Syracuse, New York. She helped to found the National Women's Suffrage Association (NWSA), serving as president in 1875-76, and as either a chairperson or vice president for over 20 years. She was considered more radical than her co-founders, the better known Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

During the Civil War, Gage worked as an organizer of medical supplies for Union soldiers. She also advocated for a Union course of action that was hinged upon full emancipation of the slaves. During the 1870s, she spoke out against the unfair treatment of Native Americans by the U.S. government, even being adopted by the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk Nation.

In 1878, Gage purchased the Toledo, Ohio suffrage journal The Ballot Box. After changing the name to The National Citizen and Ballot Box, she became the paper's primary writer, thinker, and editor for three years. During this time, the paper served as the national journal for the NSWA.

In 1890, Gage founded the Women's National Liberal Union (WNLU), in response to the increased conservativism and single-mindedness of the national women's organizations, particularly the National American Suffrage Association (NASA), which was formed the same year by combining the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) and the NWSA. Gage served as the organizations' president and the editor of it's journal the Liberal Thinker, until her death in 1898. Her focus by this time was primarily on the need for separation of church and state and the danger Christianity posed to women, suppressing them and reinforcing patriarchy. In 1893, she published a book, Woman, Church and State, which made the same arguments.

The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation

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