Her•Story: Matilda Joslyn Gage

 

In Woman as Inventor, Matilda Joslyn Gage gives a brief sampling of the way history has deprived women of receiving credit or, sometimes, profit from their inventions and some reasons why.  Gage says "If in this day of respect for woman, and of the printing press to disseminate knowledge, we find multitudes of such instances, we can well imagine of how much inventive reputation she has been robbed in ages past.

The Matilda Effect, coined by Margaret Rossiter after Gage, posits that women and their scientific achievements are often credited to men or erased entirely. Even though Title IX increased the involvement of women in the scientific community since 1972, men are twice as likely to win an award for scholarly research regardless of their representation in the nomination pool. In otherwords, there may be more women in science, but they aren't winning the awards for the work they do. In 1870, Gage brought light to a phenomenon we are still struggling with today.

 

"There is a word sweeter than mother, home or heaven. That word is liberty."

 

Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898),  Suffragette, abolitionist, Native American activist, secularist and feminist, believed she had been "born with a hatred of oppression." She served, alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), arguing that women had a natural right to vote. Gage worked with Anthony and Stanton on the History of Woman Suffrage  Volumes I through III as well as Stanton's The Woman's Bible.

She was particularly passionate about exposing the crimes of the church against women; and during a 1890 Women’s National LIberal Convention stated, "It is the church and not the state, to which the teaching of woman's inferiority is due: it is the church which primarily commanded the obedience of woman to man. It is the church which stamps with religious authority the political and domestic degradation of woman." Gage felt strongly that the church was the root cause of the oppression of women. As the conservatives entered the Suffrage movement, Gage and her radical views were unwelcome, leading her to found the Women's National Liberal Union, a radical feminist group who fought against the church's oppression of women. Her book Woman, Church and State, published in  1893, details years of misogyny in the name of Christianity.

While Anthony's and even Stanton's names are known, Gage, because of her anti-church views became a casualty of her own type of Matilda effect.

We value Matilda Joslyn Gage for amplifying the voices of women and fighting religion as a justification for the oppression of women.

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