Linda Miles Coppen on Matilda Joslyn Gage on Religion

Little has been written about activist Matilda Joslyn Gage. I was presently surprised this evening when, looking for some books on feminism, I stumbled across Gage in the index of What American Women Did, 1789-1920 by Linda Miles Coppens. Okay, perhaps stumbled is disengunous. Frankly, I didn’t think I would find Gage there, but I looked anyway.

In the entry for 1893, religion, Coppens writes:

“Suffragist and writer Matilda Joslyn Gage, who lives in Fayetteville, New York, believes that Christian teachings are responsible for the slow progress in womens’ writes. She publishes Women, Church, and the State, a broad critique of Christian influence. She accuses church leaders and ministers of controlling women’s minds and bodies and of promoting society’s double standard. She insists that women are not inferior to men and rejects the concept of original sin. Although Gage is a churchgoing Baptist, she believes that reform must come from outside the church because attitudes about females are too deeply rooted in Christianity. Her book is widely read and harshly criticized by conservative Americans. Women have been critiquing Christianity for nearly seventeen hundred years, but because earlier studies are unknown, later scholars lack a general framework and must review the same arguments.” (144)

This is all she wrote. There is no mention of Gage’s contributions to suffrage, to her work with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Stanton appears 9 times and Anthony appears 11 times in the index. Gage was not merely a contemporary but a collaborator and a critic of these women (especially Anthony’s willingness to team up with conservative Christians in order to pass a single issue, women’s suffrage).


Coppen, Linda Miles. What American Women Did: 1789-1920. McFarland & Co, 2001.