Best known in history as the co-author (with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony) of the first three volumes of The History of Woman Suffrage, Matilda Joslyn Gage holds a significant position in history as a radical feminist thinker and historian whose writings shaped her times.
An excellent speaker and writer, Gage held a variety of offices in the National Woman Suffrage Association and helped form suffrage groups in New York and Virginia. She edited the NWSA suffrage paper, The National Citizen and Ballot Box for four years, and wrote much material for suffrage publications. Gage tried to cast a ballot in the 1872 presidential elections and failed, but she actively supported Anthony during the court case which arose from Anthony’s successful casting of a ballot. She co-authored the Declaration of Rights for Women (1876) with Stanton, which was presented at the Independence Day ceremonies that summer in Philadelphia.
After becoming discouraged with the slow pace of suffrage efforts in the 1880s, Gage turned her attention to the teaching of the churches, which she perceived as teaching men to devalue women. In 1890 she formed her own organization, the Women’s National Liberal Union, to fight moves to unite church and state, and her book Women, Church and State (1893) articulated her views.
Gage remained a suffrage supporter throughout her life, but spent her elder years concentrating on religious issues. Her lifelong motto appears on her gravestone: “There is a word sweeter than Mother, Home or Heaven; that word is Liberty.”