Hold onto your hat! You are about to enter a historic home unlike any you’ve ever visited.
We invite you to:
You got it!
We are not one more dusty museum.
WARNING: This woman didn’t go for half-measures. She called for an end to the forms of “church, family, capitalist and government” that kept marginalized groups oppressed. Her ideas will challenge you so…
…before you start your visit, you must agree to the two most important rules of the house:
CHECK YOUR DOGMA AT THE DOOR
THINK FOR YOURSELF
Gage challenges you to reflect on your own values in this house that values ideas, not artifacts. You won’t learn where she ate or slept; you’ll learn about her passion to change the world. Each room you enter will take you to the heart of one of Gage’s commitments to freedom, justice and equality.
Explore at your leisure, touch everything, write your thoughts on the whiteboard walls, and please leave a note for Matilda at her actual desk in the Women’s Rights room. We’ll be around to chat with you. And we hope you’ll be inspired to follow Gage’s direction in creating a more just and democratic world!
We are honored that this Welcome Center carries the name of Ruth Putter, a distinguished local photographer and social justice activist who supported our work and served on the Board of Directors of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation.
“This is the woman who was ahead of the women who were ahead of their time.”
-- Gloria Steinem.
Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage shared leadership roles in the 20-years of the National Woman Suffrage Association (1869-1889). “The three names,” predicted a woman’s rights newspaper, “will ever hold a grateful place in the hearts of posterity.” Gage and Stanton authored most of the NWSA documents and co-edited the first three volumes of the six-volume The History of Woman Suffrage (1881-1887), much of the work being done in her Fayetteville home. Anthony, who had a severe writer’s block, specialized, with Gage, in organization. As Chair of the NWSA executive committee, Gage ran the organization for many years from the back parlor, now the Women’s Rights room.
Gage believed that the United States Constitution guaranteed women full equality, including the right to vote. Members of the NWSA broke state laws by attempting to vote; they sued local registrars who wouldn’t let them register to vote; they put forward female candidates for offices at all levels of government and they refused to pay taxes, citing the Revolutionary credo: “No taxation without representation.”
A rigorous historian, Gage documented many of women’s previously unacknowledged accomplishments, including Catherine Littlefield Greene’s invention of the cotton gin, wrongly attributed to Eli Whitney. That story appears in Gage’s Woman as Inventor (1870), available through our online store and in our gift shop.
Gage didn’t limit her fight for equality to women; stating during a major Civil War speech: "Until liberty is attained--the broadest, the deepest, the highest liberty for all--not one set alone, one clique alone, but for men and women, black and white, Irish, Germans, Americans, and Negroes, there can be no permanent peace."
She championed rights for women that we still have not won today, like reproductive justice, an end to sex trafficking and violence against women, religion out of politics and equal pay for equal work.
“Write down those stories you tell your sons!” Matilda Joslyn Gage instructed her son-in-law, L. Frank Baum.
Two years after her death, Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the first in his Oz series.
Beyond telling her son-in-law to publish his stories, Matilda’s influence permeates the Oz books. Wandering through the pages of the fourteen Oz books, you visit the world Gage spent her life striving to create, where women are equal to men; everyone has what they need and gives what they can; morality exists outside the walls of a church; diversity is celebrated, and war is not allowed. Love rules, with respect and justice for all providing the conditions for peace.
It is the spiritual and political female leadership of Oz that runs the country, keeping the peace and seeing to the needs of the people. Ozma, the rightful ruler of Oz, emerges at the end of the second book, The Marvelous Land of Oz, when the hero, Tip, discovers that he’s a female trapped in a male body. He is Ozma and must undergo a gender reassignment to be her authentic self.
Assured that his companions, the Tin Woodman, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion will love him every bit as much if he is a girl and affirmed that girls may be even better than boys, Tip emerges as Ozma with her double-gender vision to lead Oz along with Glinda the Good Witch and Dorothy – a female triumvirate.
Matilda began her magnum opus, Woman, Church and State, with a chapter on the “matriarchate,” an egalitarian value system resting on creative female authority, which Baum mirrors in Oz. The connections between Baum and his mother-in-law range from the good and bad witches– which come straight out of the chapter on witches in Woman, Church and State – to the women’s revolution in the The Marvelous Land of Oz which results in the men appreciating the difficult nature of housework.
You’ll find Gage’s full influence on the Oz books documented in The Wonderful Mother of Oz, available through our online store and in our gift shop.
Married in the front parlor (now the Oz Parlor) in 1882, Frank and Maud Baum came to live with Matilda at the Gage Home during the summer of 1887. A gifted amateur photographer, Frank photographed the Gage Home in photos that guided the 2009 rehabilitation of the Gage Home. Enlargements of his photograph of the front parlor and of Matilda painting are on view in this room.
The Gage Home/Center is the only home where Baum lived that is open to the public.
“I received the name of Ka-ron-ien-ha-wi, or ‘Sky Carrier,’ or as Mrs. Converse said the Senecas would express it, ‘She who holds the sky.'” This is the way Matilda Joslyn Gage described her honorary adoption into the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk Nation in 1893.
Her Mohawk sister “said this name would admit me to the Council of Matrons, where a vote would be taken, as to my having a voice in the Chieftainship,” Gage wrote. How amazing this must have been to a woman who, that same year went on trial for voting in a local school board election. Considered for full voting rights in her adopted nation, she was arrested in her own nation for voting.
You are in the aboriginal territory of the Onondaga Nation, the center of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, where women have had political voice for 1000 years. The Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca nations came together in 909 and formed a political alliance on the shores of nearby Onondaga Lake. Joined later by the Tuscarora, this confederacy, based on peace, absolute equality and thankful acknowledgment of the connection of all life, is arguably the oldest continuing democracy in the world. The Haudenosaunee provided a model of democracy for the Founding Fathers, as Gage knew.
She was appalled by the United States’ disregard for Native American treaty rights, and recognized the sovereignty of Native nations, which was an unpopular position to hold during that time.
The Haudenosaunee balance of responsibilities shared by women and men provided a model of women’s rights for the suffragists.
Haudenosaunee women had – and still have -- an equal voice in political leadership, the clan mother nominating, holding in office and removing, if necessary, the male chief to represent their clan.
Lineage is through the female. Before churches and government attempted to force Christianity and capitalism on the Haudenosaunee, women had final authority on decisions of war, and oversaw the economy of the community, through creating and allocating the food supply.
Gage observed the resulting harmony, and came to believe that without equality, no culture could be truly civilized.
Sisters in Spirit: Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Influence on Early American Feminists by Sally Roesch Wagner is available through our online store and in our Gift Shop.
Photo above: Courtesy of the Town of Manlius Historian. Labeled “Down Town Fayetteville,”
Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum took this photograph of Fayetteville’s Limestone Plaza while staying at the Gage Home in the summer of 1887.
Fayetteville is a village located in Onondaga County, New York, United States. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, the village had a population of 4,190. The village is named after Lafayette, a national hero of both France and the United States. It is part of the Syracuse Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The Village of Fayetteville is located in the Town of Manlius, east of the City of Syracuse of which it is a suburb.
THE HOUSE THAT GAGE BRIEFLY OWNED Royce and Valda Root 316 Highbridge St.
Valda Root and her neighbor Cathy Koch stopped in one day with the Abstract of Title to Valda’s property on Highbridge Street in Fayetteville. When the Roots paid off the property, the bank sent them the Abstract of Title. Reading through it, Valda saw the name Matilda Joslyn Gage. Alfred Worden transferred the property to Gage for $225.00 for the purpose of transferring it to his wife, Elizabeth Worden.
“I think I was born with a hatred of oppression,” Matilda marveled.
Her family home was a station on the Underground Railroad and her father, Hezekiah Joslyn, was a noted abolitionist. Editor of an anti-slavery newspaper, he was a founder of the first anti-slavery political party, the Liberty Party. Matilda early became an active abolitionist, circulating anti-slavery petitions during her childhood and continuing her anti-slavery activity until the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crimes.
It’s no wonder, then, that Matilda and her husband, Henry, were willing to risk six months in jail and thousands of dollars in fines for sheltering freedom takers.
Gage explained: One of the proudest acts of my life; one that I look back upon with most satisfaction is that when Rev. Mr. Loguen [Syracuse conductor of the Underground Railroad] …went to the village of my residence to ascertain the names of those upon whom run-away slaves might depend for aid and comfort on the way to Canada, I was one of the two solitary persons who gave him their names. Myself and one gentleman of Fayetteville, were the only two persons who dared thus publicly defy ‘the law’ of the land, and for humanity’s sake rendered ourselves liable to fine and imprisonment in the county jail, for the crime of feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the oppressed, and helping the black slaves on to freedom.
Enslavement didn’t end with the Thirteenth Amendment, Gage recognized, and in her 1893 masterpiece, Woman Church and State, she exposed the fact that in the United States, young women and children were enslaved in sex trafficking.
Woman Church and State, is available through our online store and in our Gift Shop.
Where did the freedom takers stay in the Gage Home? We don’t know. Basements, attics, cupboards, trunks, and tunnels were all used as hiding places on the Underground Railroad. Sometimes they hid in plain sight. We have created a hidden space in the Underground Railroad Room to demonstrate how they sometimes concealed themselves in a space behind a bookcase.
The Gage Home has been designated an official Underground Railroad site by New York State and the National Network to Freedom.
The most important work of Gage’s life, and the reason she was written-out of history, was her holding Christianity accountable for women’s oppression. Gage charged:
When the NWSA was absorbed into the increasingly conservative National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1890, the new organization became connected with the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, whose charismatic head, Frances Willard wanted women to get the vote to enact a constitutional amendment declaring Christ the author and head of the American government: “…Christ shall be this world’s King. King of its courts, its camps, and its commerce; King of its colleges and cloisters; King of its customs and its constitutions.” A frightened Gage warned, “This looks like a return to the Middle Ages and proscription for religious opinions, and is the great danger of the hour.”
Gage left the woman suffrage movement and formed the Women’s National Liberal Union (WNLU), bringing together prison reformers, free thinkers, anarchists and other progressives to combat the organized religious fundamentalists whose goals were to keep women under the authority of men and destroy religious freedom. Read her speech at the WNLU founding convention, “The Danger of the Hour,” which is available through our online store and in our Gift Shop.
An angry Anthony forbade suffragists from attending the WNLU convention. Ministers preached sermons against the organization; children in a Catholic orphanage were ordered to pray against it, and the government intercepted the WNLU’s mail. While opposition couldn’t destroy the WNLU, a lack of funds did.
Undaunted, Gage turned to completing her major work, Woman, Church and State, which documented the religious war against women – from the church’s burning of untold thousands of wise women as witches to the widespread, longstanding tradition of Catholic priests sexually violating women and children – picked up by the state when canon law became the basis for common law. Woman, Church and State, is available through our online store and in our Gift Shop.
The conservative NAWSA, which employed racism, xenophobia and Christian rhetoric to mainstream the idea of women voting, found Gage an intolerable embarrassment. It was these NAWSA suffragists, led by Susan B. Anthony and her hand-picked biographer, Ida Husted Harper, who wrote Gage out of her rightful place in the history of the suffrage movement.
Elementary Resources, by Jane Tretler
Lesson Plan by Jane Tretler
Library Media Specialist
East Syracuse-Minoa School District, N.Y.
The Social Studies focus for 4th grade is New York State, so Gage is an ideal connection. Gage’s fascinating life gives 4th graders the opportunity to be exposed to important strands of New York State history that were also Gage’s life’s work:
The Underground Railroad
Native Americans (Haudenosaunee)
Local Author of – Local Author of The Wizard of Oz, Frank L. Baum (Gage’s son in law)
Middle/High School Lesson Plan, by Diana Green
Clothes Make the Person
1. Clothes make statements about ourselves
2. Clothes are influenced by Fashion, what society says is “in” for the times
3. People often change their clothes to change how people perceive them
4. Women in the 19th C had few rights & when they tried to change their status in society, they also experimented with changing their clothes
High School Lesson Plans, by Joanne Sassi-Willcox
1. The brutality of slavery
2. Differing opinions on the institution of slavery
3. Abolitionist movement and reaction in the North and the South
4. Role of Women in the Abolitionist Movement
5. Causes of the Civil War
6. The role of the Gage family in the Underground Railroad
7. Slavery today/Human Trafficking
1. Religious Persecution
2. Development of separation of church and state
3. Rise of Religious Fundamentalism
4. Present Day controversies on the role of Religion and Government
High School Resources, by Andy Reed
Webquest Women’s Suffrage and the 20th Century
The Declaration of Sentiments listed a number of grievances women had against our patriarchal society. Many suffragists had gathered together during tea parties to discuss the many ways society was treating women as social inferiors to men. One solution many women felt would advance their cause was the vote. The Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 was organized to advance the cause of women’s rights. The 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was passed as a result of the efforts of several suffragists including Matilda Joslyn Gage, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Alice Paul to name a few.
Curriculum Project Field Trip Proposal
Woman’s Suffrage and the Underground Railroad
This project is designed to teach the history of the early suffragist and abolitionist movement. The Unit objectives will focus on both well-known figures in the movement and those who have been written out of the history textbook. Students will be able to make connections to these progressive reformers by visiting local historical sites.
New York State Standards: Standard 1- Key ideas 1, 2, 3 ,