Friday, November 9, 2012

Oppresion (for Oppression)

"Born with a hatred of oppression," Matilda Joslyn Gage arrived on the scene in the early 1800s, a much more progressive and activist century than some of the present-day politically correct might realize. An "adopted" member of the Mohawk Indian tribe, Gage grew up in Cicero, New York (in a house on the Underground Railroad) and was a lifelong proponent of Native American rights, the abolition of slavery, and a woman's right to vote. Not an advocate merely of the ballot, she campaigned strenuously for women's suffrage, though she wouldn't live long enough to see it to fruition. Unlike some of her sister suffragettes, most notably those in the Women's Christian Temperance Union, she did not believe in suffrage simply because it would likely bring a needed feminine "morality" to the legislature. Instead, she regarded it simply as a "natural right," regardless of how women might choose to use it. Gage first became involved in the women's movement when she gave a speech at the 1852 National Women's Rights Convention in Syracuse. She later managed to get New York women the right to vote in school board elections, and in 1871, along with nine others, she stormed the polls demanding that they be allowed to vote. She supported Victoria Woodhull at that time and served as an elector for Belva Lockwood in her own bid for the White House in 1884. Gage was a prolific and scathingly funny writer ("It is sometimes better to be a dead man than a live woman") and was also the mother-in-law of famed children's author L. Frank Baum. (Her son and his wife had a daughter whom they named Dorothy Gage, but sadly the little girl died at five months old. This upset Gage's daughter Maud, the child's aunt, so much that her husband named his Wizard of Oz protagonist "Dorothy Gale" in her honor.) The "Matilda Effect" (coined in 1993 and meaning that if a scientist is known to be female, her work will receive less credit than if that fact were not known) was named for Matilda Gage. There were seven cases of Oppresion in OhioLINK today, and 77 in WorldCat.

(Matilda Joslyn Gage, 19th century photograph in the public domain, courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid

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