Tag Archives: Feminism

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Feminist Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Early life

According to the Matilda Josyln Gage Foundation siteMatilda Joslyn Gage was born on March 24, 1826, in Cicero, New York. An only child, she was raised in a household dedicated to antislavery. Her father, Dr. Hezekiah Joslyn, was a nationally known abolitionist, and the Joslyn home was a station on the Underground Railway.

If we were to stop there, we would limit her life to that of an abolitionist, a worthy cause, but she was so much more. She fought for the rights of anyone oppressed as well as the separation of church and state.

Her adult life began 19th century-conventionally: she married Henry Gage when she was 18 and eventually gave birth to five children–four of whom lived. Gage was an unusual husband in that he gave his wife a freedom few wives of that time could ever hope for. 

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Abolitionist

That personal freedom was not only in great contrast to women, but of course to enslaved men and women.

On October 4, 1850 Gage [24 years old] signed petition stating that she would face a 6-month prison term and a $2,000 fine rather than obey the Fugitive Slave Law.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Women’s Rights

She would have attended the first Women’s Wights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY (July 19, 1848) but she was pregnant and about to give birth to her son Thomas.

Two years later in September 1852  she gave her first public address at the third national women’s rights convention in Syracuse stating: While so much is said of the inferior intellect of woman, it is by a strange absurdity conceded that very many eminent men owe their station in life to their mothers.

She also said that, “Custom has been, and is now, the mistress who plants her foot on the too willing neck of prostrate womanhood.”

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

American Civil War

Gage was very capable of juggling more than one cause at at time. In 1862 she gave a Flag Presentation Speech to the 122nd New York Volunteer Infantry known as the “Onondagas” [named from their home area,  Onondaga County, New York] as they went off to the Civil War. Opposing President Lincoln, who said that the war was being fought to preserve the union, Gage told soldiers they were fighting for an end to slavery and freedom for all citizens.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Suffragist

In 1869 with Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton,  Gage founded the National Woman Suffrage Association. She helped found New York State Woman Suffrage Association; served as its president for nine years.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Feminist

Feminist Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

In 1870 Gage researched and published “Woman as Inventor.” In it, Gage credited the invention of the cotton gin Catherine Littlefield Greene. Gage claimed that Greene suggested to Whitney the use of a brush-like component instrumental in separating out the seeds and cotton. [Gage provided no source for this claim and to date there has been no independent verification of Greene’s role in the invention of the gin. However, many believe that Eli Whitney received the patent for the gin and the sole credit in history textbooks for its invention only because social norms inhibited women from registering for patents.]

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Native Americans

In the 1870s: Gage wrote a series of articles speaking out against United States’ unjust treatment of American Indians and describing superior position of native women. “The division of power between the sexes in this Indian republic was nearly equal,” Gage wrote of the Iroquois. In matters of government, “…its women exercised controlling power in peace and war … no sale of lands was valid without consent” of the women, while “the family relation among the Iroquois demonstrated woman’s superiority in power … in the home, the wife was absolute … if the Iroquois husband and wife separated, the wife took with her all the property she had brought … the children also accompanied the mother, whose right to them was recognized as supreme.” “Never was justice more perfect, never civilization higher,” Gage concluded.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

More…

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

On May 10, 1876 she chaired at the Ninth Annual Convention of the National and New York State Woman Suffrage Associations. In her opening address she said that during the past 100 hundred years man had had his share of the advantages of the Declaration of Independence, but woman at the outset of the second century of the Republic stood just where she had in 1776.

History of Woman Suffrage was produced by Gage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Ida Husted Harper. History was published in six volumes from 1881 to 1922.

Its more than 5700 pages are the major source for primary documentation about the women’s suffrage movement from its beginnings through the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which enfranchised women in the U.S. in 1920. Written from the viewpoint of the wing of the movement led by Stanton and Anthony, its coverage of rival groups and individuals is limited.

The first three volumes, which cover the history of the movement from its beginnings to 1885, were written and edited by Stanton, Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage. Volume 1 (1848–1861) appeared in 1881, Volume 2 (1861–1876) in 1882 and Volume 3 (1876–1885) in 1886. Some early chapters first appeared in Gage’s newspaper, The National Citizen and Ballot Box.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Female Liability

From  Starter Home: Discovering the Past in Central New York By Peter Svenson: In 1877, having singlehandedly developed a strategy that mimicked a convicted male felon’s right to petition Congress to regain his right to vote, Gage petitioned Congress in person to grant her “relief from her political liabilities,” i.e., her womanhood. A bill to enfranchise her was introduced on the House floor, but defeated. …Gage was considered more radical that either [Susan B] Anthony or [Elizabeth C] Stanton.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Freethinker

In 1878 Gage was a speaker at the Freethought convention in Watkin’s Glen, NY; an arrest under the Comstock Laws occurs there for the sale of a birth control manual.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Continued activism

From 1878 – 1881 Gage published The National Citizen and Ballot Box, official paper of the NWSA.

In 1880 Gage wrote “Who Planned the Tennessee Campaign of 1862?” Gage argued that a woman, Anna Ella Carroll, planned that campaign in detail. [In the fall of 1861, Carroll had traveled to St. Louis to work with secret agent, Judge Lemuel Dale Evans, who had been appointed by Secretary of State William H. Seward. Carroll gathered information and based on it and in late November 1861 wrote a memorandum that she sent to Assistant Secretary of War Thomas A. Scott and Attorney General Edward Bates, advocating that the combined army-navy forces change their invasion route from the Mississippi to the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers.]

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

The future Wizard of Oz

November 9, 1882 Gage’s daughter, Maud, married L. Frank Baum in the parlor of the Gage home. Under the influence of his wife and mother-in-law, Baum became an enthusiastic convert to feminism. He was, ”a secure man who did not worry about asserting his masculine authority,” and he was not bothered that Maud had the upper hand in the marriage; in fact he seemed to welcome her take-charge attitude. His feminist beliefs would have a profound effect on his fiction. Nearly all of his child heroes were girls, girls who rely on their own resources and not on the aid, or validation, of men. He thought men who did not support feminist aspirations ”selfish, opinionated, conceited or unjust — and perhaps all four combined,” as he wrote in a newspaper editorial. ”The tender husband, the considerate father, the loving brother, will be found invariably championing the cause of women.”

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

International Council of Women

March 1886 an organizer of the International Council of Women, chaired one session. Convention attended by Woman Christian Temperance Union President Frances Willard, whom Gage called “the most dangerous woman in America,” because of her work with the religious right, trying to destroy the wall of separation between church and state by placing the Christian God as the head of the government.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Statue of Liberty protest

Feminist Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

October 28, 1886 she participated in the New York City Woman Suffrage Association’s protest at the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty. Suffragists called it the greatest hypocrisy of the 19th century that liberty is represented as a woman in a land where not a single woman has liberty.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Woman’s National Liberal Union

In 1890 Gage left NWSA after its merger with the American Woman Suffrage Association and established the Woman’s National Liberal Union, dedicated to maintaining the separation of church and state.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Woman, Church, and State

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

In 1893 Gage published her magnum opus, Woman, Church, and State.

Gage also spoke of organized religion: “The greatest evils to women in all ages have come through the bondage of the Church. Women must think for themselves and realize that the story of the creation with the pair in the garden and the speaking serpent standing on his tail was a myth.”

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Woman’s Suffrage League

December 8, 1893 at a meeting of the Woman’s Suffrage League, Gage reacted to a statement made by the Rev Dr Parkhurst about women turned out to get a night’s lodging—that they might “starve or freeze on the streets,” with his consent, if it only brought them to a proper state of repentance. Gage stated, “For every 2,000 women who are turned homeless and friendless into the cold wintry streets, with every man’s hand against them , there are 20,000 men as guilty who are stting in comfortable homes, surrounded with luxury, who pose as honored and respected members of society.”

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

The Woman’s Bible

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

In 1895 Gage contributed to Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s The Woman’s Bible, writing interpretations of three Biblical passages pertinent to women. TWB is a major criticism of standard biblical interpretation from a radical feminist point of view.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Gage dies

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

March 18, 1898 Gage died in Chicago at the home of her daughter, Maud Gage Baum. Gage was 72. Written on her gravestone:

THERE IS A WORD SWEETER
THAN MOTHER
HOME OR HEAVEN
THAT WORD IS LIBERTY
Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Legacy

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Wizard of Oz

Feminist Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

May 17, 1900 L Frank Baum published Wizard of Oz. A young girl named Dorothy is the hero at a time when such a thing was unheard of.

“The Matilda effect”

Feminist Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

In May 1993 science historian Margaret W. Rossiter described and names “The Matilda effect.

The abstract of the article stated: Recent work has brought to light so many cases, historical and contemporary, of women scientists who have been ignored, denied credit or otherwise dropped from sight that a sex-linked phenomenon seems to exist, as has been documented to be the case in other fields, such as medicine, art history and literary criticism. Since this systematic bias in scientific information and recognition practices fits the second half of Matthew 13:12 in the Bible, which refers to the under-recognition accorded to those who have little to start with, it is suggested that sociologists of science and knowledge can add to the ‘Matthew Effect’, made famous by Robert K. Merton in 1968, the ‘Matilda Effect’, named for the American suffragist and feminist critic Matilda J. Gage of New York, who in the late nineteenth century both experienced and articulated this phenomenon. Calling attention to her and this age-old tendency may prod future scholars to include other such ‘Matildas’ and thus to write a better, because more comprehensive, history and sociology of science.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation

In 2000 The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation began “when Sally Roesch Wagner, the leading authority on Gage, brought together a nationwide network of diverse people with a common goal: to bring Gage’s vitally important suffragist back to her rightful place in history.”

The foundation’s mission is: dedicated to educating current and future generations about Gage’s work and its power to drive contemporary social change.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage
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War Hero Deborah Sampson

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Early life

Deborah Sampson was born on December 17, 1760 in Plympton, Massachusetts. Her father, Johnathan Sampson, Jr. was a direct descendant of the Mayflower pilgrim Miles Standish. Her mother,  Deborah Bradford, was a direct descendant of the Mayflower pilgrim, William Bradford.

Though having historic roots, the Sampson family suffered financially due to bad luck and poor skills on Johnathan Samson’s part. He eventually abandoned his wife and seven children.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Indentured servant

Because of her difficult situation and in poor health, Mrs Sampson placed her children in the homes of various relatives and friends. Ten-year-old Deborah Sampson became an indentured servant until her release at the age of 18.

For the next three years, she worked part-time as a schoolteacher and worked in homes spinning and weaving. Truning 21, above average in height  strong, and hearing of the Revolutionary War’s heroics, Deborah was looking for adventure. She decided to dress like a man and join the Continental Army.

After her first attempt, she thought others were suspicious and left, but tried again, this time successfully joining the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment on  May 20, 1782 under the alias Robert Shurtliff,  Her five feet seven inch height helped fool others.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Battle of Tarrytown

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Less that two months later, on July 3, 1782 at the Battle of Tarrytown, Sampson was wounded . Two musket balls hit her in the thigh and a sabre cut her forehead.

Fearful that others would discover her true identity, she begged her fellow soldiers to let her die and not take her to the hospital, but they refused to abandon her. Doctors treated her head wound, but she left the hospital before they could attend to the thigh.

She removed one of the balls herself with a penknife and sewing needle, but her leg never fully healed because the other musket ball was too deep for her to reach.

Almost a year later, on April 1, 1783, Sampson was transferred to Philadelphia as a personal orderly to General John Patterson.  This job entitled her to a better quality of life, better food, less danger, and improved shelter, but during that summer, Sampson came down with fever.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Dr Barnabas Binney

Dr Barnabas Binney cared for her. He saw the cloth she used to bind her breasts and so discovered her secret. He did not betray her; he took her to his house, where his wife and daughters housed and took care of her.

In September, after Sampson had fully recovered, Binney asked her to deliver a personal letter to General Patterson. Upon delivering it, Patterson informed her that the letter said she was a woman in disguise.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Discharge and marriage

On October 23, 1783 Deborah Sampson was honorably discharged from the Army.

On April 7, 1785 she married Benjamin Gannet from Sharon, Massachusetts. Together they had three children, Earl, Mary, and Patience.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Request for pay

Revolutionary War Hero Deborah Sampson

In January 1792 Deborah Sampson petitioned the Massachusetts State Legislature for pay which the army had withheld from her because of her sex. Her petition passed through the State Senate, was approved, and signed by Governor John Hancock. The General Court of Massachusetts verified her service and wrote that she “exhibited an extraordinary instance of female heroism by discharging the duties of a faithful gallant soldier, and at the same time preserving the virtue and chastity of her gender, unsuspected and unblemished“. The award was 34 pounds.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Pension request

Twelve years later, on February 20, 1804 Paul Revere wrote to Massachusetts US Representative William Eustis on behalf of Sampson. Revere requested that the US Congress grant her a military pension. This had never before been requested by or for a woman, but with her health failing and her family destitute, the money was greatly needed. Revere wrote, “I have been induced to enquire her situation, and character, since she quit the male habit, and soldiers uniform; for the more decent apparel of her own gender…humanity and justice obliges me to say, that every person with whom I have conversed about her, and it is not a few, speak of her as a woman with handsome talents, good morals, a dutiful wife, and an affectionate parent.

More than a year later, on March 11, 1805, the US Congress obliged Revere’s letter and placed her on the Massachusetts Invalid Pension Roll. This pension plan paid Deborah Sampson four dollars a month.

Continuing to experience financial difficulty, in 1809, Sampson sent another petition to Congress, asking that her pension as an invalid soldier, given to her in 1804, commence with the time of her 1793 discharge. Had her petition been approved, she would have been awarded $960, to be divided into $48 a year for twenty years. However, Congress denied the request.

Seven years later, Sampson’s petition came before Congress again. This time, they approved it awarding her $76.80 a year. With this amount, she was able to repay all her loans and take better care of the family farm.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Death

War Hero Deborah Sampson

On April 29, 1827 Deborah Sampson died at the age of 66. She is buried in Rock Ridge Cemetery in the town of Sharon, Massachusetts.

In 1831,  Sampson’s husband petitioned Congress for pay as the spouse of a deceased soldier. Although the couple was not married at the time of her service, in 1837 the committee concluded that the history of the Revolution “furnished no other similar example of female heroism, fidelity and courage.” He was awarded the money, though he died before receiving it.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Proclamation

Revolutionary War Hero Deborah Sampson

May 23, 1983: Governor Michael J. Dukakis signed a proclamation which declared that Deborah Sampson was the Official Heroine of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Two news services stated this was the first time in US history that any state had proclaimed anyone as the official hero or heroine.

Using her unselfish example today, it was reported on March 21, 2017 in the Military Times that “advocates are lobbying for sweeping reforms in women veterans services in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandals that have raised questions about misogyny and morale in the military.

“When people think of veterans, when they close their eyes, they don’t think about someone who looks like me,” said Allison Jaslow, chief of staff for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Until we get over that hurdle, we’re not going to be able to get everything else that we need.”

The measure — dubbed the Deborah Sampson Act, after the woman who disguised herself as a man to serve in the Continental Army — mandates more peer-to-peer counseling for women veterans, expanded newborn care services at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, better tracking of women’s health issues by the department and $20 million to retrofit VA medical centers with more privacy features.

War Hero Deborah Sampson
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New York Radical Women 1968

New York Radical Women 1968

September 7, 1968

Miss America Pageant, Atlantic City, NJ

New York Radical Women 1968

Second-wave Feminism

Time’s passage allows society to mistakenly think that something is new when it is not. The feminism of the 1960s may have seemed like a new movement, but of course 19th and early 20th century Suffragists such as Lucy Burns had in many ways a more difficult time (see Suffragists Tortured).

That era is known as the first wave of US feminism. [see Four Waves of Feminism article]

By the early 1960s, alongside the civil rights movement, women again marched and raised their voices to demand equality in the face of hypocrisy.

That “all men [and women] are created equal.”

New York Radical Women 1968

Boomer moms and their daughters

New York Radical Women 1968

As had happened during World War I and more so in World War II, many women realized that while being a homemaker was an acceptable choice, so were all the other occupations.

More and more women entered college and not just to get their MRS. You can see by the chart below that while the number of men and women with a Bachelor’s degree continued to increase for both sexes, it was in the 1960s that woman began to outnumber men.

New York Radical Women 1968

New York Radical Women 1968

NYRM

Robin Morgan, Carol Hanisch, Shulamith Firestone, and Pam Allen founded New York Radical Women in the fall of 1967 in New York City. The women viewed the hierarchy of protest groups to be male-dominated and that that hierarchy kept women in subservient positions rather than allowing them to have positions of power.

The NYRM’s first action was on January 15, 1968 with in led a protest event, a “burial of traditional womanhood.” held in Arlington National Cemetery.

The action was also a counter-protest to the  Jeannette Rankin Brigade peace march in Washington D.C. That march was a gathering of women’s groups protesting the Vietnam War as grieving wives, mothers, and daughters. The Radical Women rejected the protest. It said it was simply a reaction to those who governed the male-dominated society.

New York Radical Women 1968

1968 Miss America Pageant

No bras burned

The New York Radical Women’s held their most famous protest on September 7, 1968 at the Miss America contest in Atlantic City.

The group called the pageant a “cattle auction” and displayed a “Women’s Liberation” banner. Most famously, women placed into a trash can bras, girdles, Playboy magazines, mops, and other items representing their oppression.

They did not burn the items.

New York Radical Women 1968

Dissolution of NYRW

In 1969, ideological differences led Robin Morgan to leave and form Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (W.I.T.C.H.). Shulamith Firestone started Redstockings.

New York Radical Women 1968
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