On this date in 1826, Matilda Joslyn (later Gage) was born in Cicero, N.Y. The father of this ranking national suffrage leader and outspoken freethinker was Dr. Hezekiah Joslyn, whose home was a station on the underground railroad, and who advocated abolition, women's rights, freethought and temperance. Matilda married at age 18 and gave birth to five children, one of whom died in infancy. A founding member and onetime President of the National Woman Suffrage Association, Gage worked closely with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Indignant over "the wrongs inflicted upon one-half of humanity by the other half in the name of religion," she delivered a major address, "Woman, Church, and State," at a suffrage convention in 1878. By popular response, she later turned this address into a book of the same name in 1893. It documented woman-hating abuses stemming from such religious doctrines as celibacy, including the witch-hunts.
The activist organized protest voting campaigns for women, addressed Congress, edited the National Citizen and Ballot Box for four years, and was an honorary member of the Council of Matrons of the Iroquois. Gage convened the historic Woman's National Liberal Union in 1890, the first feminist group devoted to the promotion of the separation of church and state. Gage's warning of a union of Catholics and Protestants whose agenda was to put God in the Constitution and attack secular schools, is eerily timely today: ". . . in order to help preserve the very life of the Republic, it is imperative that women should unite upon a platform of opposition to the teaching and aim of that ever most unscrupulous enemy of freedom--the Church." Carved on her tombstone in Fayetteville, N.Y., is Gage's well-known motto: "There is a word sweeter than Mother, Home, or Heaven; that word is Liberty." D. 1898.