Matilda Joslyn Gage, a 19th century American feminist.

By Randy Horton

The latest issue (Winter 1993/94) of Free Inquiry has an article about Matilda Joslyn Gage, a 19th century American feminist. I must confess that I did not know of her until reading this article. Her first public speech was at the National Women's Rights Convention in Syracuse, New York in 1852 . I mention this only because I have recently read several messages here saying that the women's movement is only about 40 years old.

Anyway, her words are more interesting to me than her life, so here are a few of them:

In an 1890 interview, she said, "I have made my study, and at last have been convinced that the stumbling blocks to woman's political enfranchisement can only be rolled away by her mental and spiritual liberation. . . I regard the church as the basic principal of immorality in the world, and the most prolific source of pauperism, of crime, and of injustice to women."

At the above mentioned convention, she declared:

"We have educated men politically, and yet the victory is not ours because the teachings of the church have stood in the way . . . In the old anti-slavery times men did not hesitate to call the American Church the bulwark of American slavery. In like manner today we shall proclaim the Church--- American, English, Greek, Protestant, Catholic--- to be the bulwark of woman's slavery."

Her book, Woman, Church, and State, closes with these words:

"During the ages, no rebellion has been of like importance with that of Woman against the tyranny of the State; none has had its far- reaching effects. We note its beginning; its progress will overthrow every existing form of these institutions; its end will be a regenerated world."
I wonder if she would be disappointed by our lack of progress.


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