Matilda Joslyn Gage

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Matilda Joslyn Gage

Matilda Electa Joslyn Gage (March 24, 1826 – March 18, 1898) was an American Theosophist known for her activism in the areas of women's suffrage, Native American rights, and abolition of slavery. She was raised as a freethinker, and became a prolific author.

Biographical data

Matilda was born on March 24, 1826 in Cicero, NY (near Syracuse) to Hezekiah and Helen Joslyn. Her father was a noted abolitionist who educated his daughter to be a “freethinker”. Their home in Fayetteville, NY was a station on the Underground Railroad that secretly conducted escaped slaves to safety in Canada. This work was dangerous and illegal under the terms of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, but the family continued its efforts for years.

Mrs. Gage was an active figure in the woman’s rights movement and other social causes throughout her life. She was coauthor, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, of the three-volume History of Woman Suffrage, and was one of the prominent early members of the National Woman Suffrage Association[1]

Involvement with Theosophy

Matilda Gage joined the Society when she was living in Fayetteville, New York. Her application and admission to the Rochester Theosophical Society are dated March 26, 1885. She was recommended by Josephine W. Cables and E. M. Sasseville.[2][3] Dr. John Algeo wrote:

She was one of the three leaders in the nineteenth-century struggle for women’s rights and especially an effort to gain the voting franchise. She was a passionately devoted Theosophist, in character not unlike H. P. Blavatsky, especially in her scorn for organized religion, although her political activism was all her own. Having rejected conventional faith and the churches that espouse it, Matilda discovered a kindred soul in H. P. Blavatsky and proceeded to share the discovery with her children and grandchildren.[4]

Gage said her association to Theosophy had been the "crown blessing" of her life and introduced her daughter Maud and his husband L. Frank Baum (the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) to the Theosophical Society.


In addition to the three-volume History of Woman Suffrage, coauthored by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Gage wrote several other books. She edited The National Citizan and Ballot Box from May 1878 to October 1881, and also The Liberal Thinker, and wrote many essays published in those journals. A few of her published works:

  • Woman, Church, and State: A Historical Account of the Status of Woman through the Christian Ages with Reminiscences of the Matriarchate. 1883. The Second Edition from the Truth Seeker Company in New York is available at Hathitrust.
  • Woman as Inventor. Fayetteville, New York: New York State Woman Suffrage Association, 1870. Tract. 32 pages.
  • Who planned the Tennessee campaign of 1862? or, Anna Ella Carroll vs. Ulysses S. Grant: a few generally unknown facts in regard to our Civil War. Washington, 1800. Tract. 16 pages.
  • Speech of Mrs. M.E.J. Gage, at the Woman's Rights Convention, held at Syracuse, Sept. 1852. Speech published as tract.
  • Address of the National Woman Suffrage Association to the National Republican Convention, Philadelphia, Pa., June 10th, 1876. Published with Susan B. Anthony. 1876. Speech published as tract. 4 pages.
  • An account of the proceedings on the trial of Susan B. Anthony on the charge of illegal voting, at the presidential election in Nov., 1872, and on the trial of Beverly W. Jones, Edwin T. Marsh and William B. Hall, the inspectors of election by whom her vote was received. Rochester, N.Y.: Daily Democrat and Chronicle Book Print, 1874. Collection of speeches. 212 pages.


The Matilda Joslyn Gage Home has been preserved in Fayetteville, New York for its historic use in the Underground Railroad. There, a research library and educational programs are maintained by the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation.

The term "the Matilda Effect" was proposed by Margaret W. Rossiter, an historian of science, to indicate situations when woman scientists receive inadequate credit for their scientific work and discoveries.[5]

Other resources


Archival collections


  1. Wagner, Declaration 2, 20.
  2. Theosophical Society General Membership Register, 1875-1942 at See book 1, entry 3274 (website file: 1B/11).
  3. See A Notable Theosophist: L. Frank Baum by John Algeo.
  4. See "Theosophical Wizard of Oz" by John Algeo at Theosophy Forward
  5. See Matilda effect in Wikipedia.