Matilda Joslyn Gage said,

"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."

Matilda Joslyn Gage was a leader of the 19th-century women's movement, a writer, historian, political theorist, anti-slavery activist, supporter of American Indian sovereignty, and honorary matron of the Mohawk Wolf Clan. (For more on this very important but little-known multi-issue feminist, see the excellent article "Matilda Joslyn Gage: forgotten feminist" --by Sally Roesch Wagner, who has been researching and publicizing Gage's work for decades:

Gage was inspired by the liberty and respect enjoyed by women of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations of the Iroquois). She wrote, "The division of power between the sexes in this Indian republic was nearly equal... its women exercised controlling power in peace and war.. never was justice more perfect, never civilization higher..." (See Roesch Wagner's article "Matilda Josylyn Gage and the Iroquois: An Unknown Feminist /American Indian Alliance" at

(Gage was not the only Euroamerican woman to be impressed with the high status of American Indian women. Dr Gene Weltfish, a woman anthropologist, wrote her impressions of Pawnee women's liberty: "In the detailed events of everyday living, she began her development as a disciplined and free... woman who felt her dignity and her independence to be inviolate. I was often confronted with the feeling that they expected of me a kind of independence and decisiveness that was not considered becoming to woman in our society." [quoted in Niethammer, Daughters of Earth])

Matilda Joslyn Gage also broke major ground in reconceptualizing women's role in history in her book Woman, Church and State. She was infuriated to see religion used as a club to subjugate women and rejected the common claim that the Christian church had elevated female status, citing the misogyny of theologians and canon law which defined women as inferior and subject beings. She researched the power of ancient priestesses and the persecution of female spiritual leadership in the witch hunts. She dared to speak out against violence against women, their legal erasure in marriage, and to challenge the platitudes used to silence women.

Articles | Catalog | Home