In the United States Capitol, there is a memorial to Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. These two women are the most famous feminists in the United States and they are the reason why women can vote today. What many do not know is that there was a third woman: Matilda Joslyn Gage. Gage nearly disappeared from history due to her radical views and attacks on the Christian Church, but her legacy will continue forever. After all, she influenced one of the most famous movie characters of all time.
Matilda Joslyn Gage was born on March 24, 1826 in Cicero, New York. Her parents raised her to be an abolitionist; their home was a station on the Underground Railroad. Her parents also believed that their daughter should have an education, an uncommon belief in the United States at this time. In 1845, she married Henry Hill Gage and the couple settled in Fayetteville, New York. When she was not taking care of her four children, she was continuing her fight for freedom for the slaves. In 1850, Gage signed a petition stating that she would face a six month prison term and a $2,000 fine rather than obey the Fugitive Slave Law, which made criminals of anyone assisting slaves to freedom in the United States. During the Civil War, she organized supplies for the Union soldiers because she knew slavery would only end if the North won.
Gage missed the first Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in 1848, but she attended and addressed the third national convection in Syracuse in 1852. Though she was inaudible to her audience and trembled, this was just the beginning of her fight for women’s rights. After the Civil War ended and her children grew up, Gage spent the rest of her life traveling across the country, giving lectures on equality. Along with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gage was a founding member of the National Woman Suffrage Association. Gage attempted to vote in 1871, but failed to make it to the polls. In 1872, Anthony was arrested after voting in the presidential election; Gage came to her aid and supported her during Anthony’s trial. In 1880, Gage led Fayetteville women to the polls when New York allowed women to vote in school district elections. In 1881, she co-wrote History of Woman Suffrage with Anthony and Stanton. She was frustrated about how history kept women out of it so she wrote about the famous accomplishments from females.
Besides speaking about the fair treatment of women and African Americans, she talked about the Native Americans. She spoke out against the unfair treatment of Native Americans and how the United States was forcing them to become citizenship and pay taxes. She was adopted into the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk nation and given the name Ka-ron-ien-ha-wi (Sky carrier). Gage also spoke about how women were considered equal in the Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy’s form of government. In 1890, Gage formed the Women’s National Liberal Union to fight against the effort to create a Christian state. She was worried that if religion and government united, women would never be able to vote since the bible believed women should serve men. She co-wrote The Women’s Bible with Stanton. The two women were ahead of their time since it is only recently that people have begun to question women’s roles in the bible.
When Gage left the National American Woman Suffrage Association to form the Women’s National Liberal Union, her belief that women were guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution to vote was deemed too liberal by other feminists; plus her attacks on the church didn’t help her popularity. She died in Chicago, Illinois on March 18, 1898. Her lifelong motto appears on her gravestone: “There is a word sweeter than Mother, Home or Heaven; that word is Liberty.” Her son-in-law, L. Frank Baum, was inspired by Gage to create strong female characters in his books. One of the character’s name was Dorothy and she was exploring a land called Oz…