Matilda Joslyn Gage

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Matilda Joslyn Gage was an American writer and activist. She is mainly known for her contributions to women's suffrage in the United States (i.e. the right to vote) but she also campaigned for Native American rights, abolitionism (the end of slavery), and freethought (the free exercise of reason in matters of religious belief). She is the eponym for the Matilda effect, which describes the tendency to deny women credit for scientific invention. She influenced her son-in-law L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz.

She was the youngest speaker at the 1852 National Women's Rights Convention held in Syracuse, New York. She was a tireless worker and public speaker, and contributed numerous articles to the press, being regarded as "one of the most logical, fearless and scientific writers of her day". During 1878–1881, she published and edited the National Citizen, a paper devoted to the cause of women. With Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, she was for years in the forefront of the suffrage movement, and collaborated with them in writing the History of Woman Suffrage (1881–1887). She was the author of the Woman's Rights Catechism (1868); Woman as Inventor (1870); Who Planned the Tennessee Campaign (1880); and Woman, Church and State (1893).

For many years she was associated with the National Women's Suffrage Association, but when her views on suffrage and feminism became too radical for many of its members, she founded the Woman's National Liberal Union, whose objects were: To assert woman's natural right to self-government; to show the cause of delay in the recognition of her demand; to preserve the principles of civil and religious liberty; to arouse public opinion to the danger of a union of church and state through an amendment to the constitution, and to denounce the doctrine of woman's inferiority. She served as president of this union from its inception in 1890 until her death in Chicago, in 1898.

(Source: Wikipedia.org.)

Best known in history as the coauthor (with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony) of the first three volumes of The History of Woman Suffrage, Matilda Joslyn Gage holds a significant position in history as a radical feminist thinker and historian whose writings shaped her times.

An excellent speaker and writer, Gage held a variety of offices in the National Woman Suffrage Association and helped form suffrage groups in New York and Virginia. She edited the NWSA suffrage paper, The National Citizen and Ballot Box for four years, and wrote much material for suffrage publications. Gage tried to cast a ballot in the 1872 presidential elections and failed, but she actively supported Anthony during the court case which arose from Anthony’s successful casting of a ballot. She coauthored the Declaration of Rights for Women (1876) with Stanton, which was presented at the Independence Day ceremonies that summer in Philadelphia.

After becoming discouraged with the slow pace of suffrage efforts in the 1880s, Gage turned her attention to the teaching of the churches, which she perceived as teaching men to devalue women. In 1890 she formed her own organization, the Women’s National Liberal Union, to fight moves to unite church and state, and her book Women, Church and State (1893) articulated her views.

Gage remained a suffrage supporter throughout her life, but spent her elder years concentrating on religious issues. Her lifelong motto appears on her gravestone: “There is a word sweeter than Mother, Home or Heaven; that word is Liberty.”

(Source: WomenOfTheHall.org.)

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