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Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage shared leadership roles in the 20-years of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) from 1869 to 1889). “The three names,” predicted a woman’s rights newspaper, “will ever hold a grateful place in the hearts of posterity.” Much of the NWSA’s operation and writing took place in the Gage Home.
While Stanton hated conventions and excelled at writing and Anthony, who had a severe writer’s block, was a gifted organizer, Gage was both writer and organizer. 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 Gage’s Fayetteville home. Anthony, specialized, along with Gage, in organization. As Chair of the NWSA executive committee, Gage ran the organization for many years from the Gage Home, For four years, for example, she edited and published the official NWSA newspaper, The National Citizen and Ballot Box 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, which states had made illegal. Her Woman’s Rights Catechism laid the groundwork for a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience. 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.
Perhaps the earliest advocate of intersectional feminism, 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." Peace, Gage asserted, could only be achieved through equality.
The suffragist “ahead of the women who were ahead of their time,” Gage championed rights for women that we still have not won today, including equal pay for equal work, reproductive justice, an end to sex trafficking.
Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation
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Fayetteville NY. 13066
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