Historical Abolitionist of the Month: Matilda Joslyn Gage

By Katie Masi

The fight to end slavery is rooted in history and extends until today. Each month we profile some of the brave men and women, both contemporary and historical, who have fought to eradicate slavery. Our historical abolitionist of the month is Matilda Joslyn Gage.

Matilda Joslyn Gage was born in 1826 into a strongly abolitionist family. Her childhood home served as a refuge in the Underground Railroad. Later, when she and her husband moved to Fayetteville, NY, their home also became a station for slaves escaping to freedom. Gage was among the few in Fayetteville to sign a statement promising to provide assistance to any slave trying to escape the South.

Because of her outspoken nature, Gage was under constant surveillance. The scrutiny did not silence her. As a talented orator and writer, she used the attention she received from both supporters and enemies to further the antislavery movement and women’s suffrage. In 1852, when she was just 26 years old, Gage spoke at the Third National Women’s Rights Convention. She argued that slavery and the limited rights of women stemmed from the same patriarchal views. Gage became devoted to women’s suffrage and later founded the National Women’s Suffrage Association with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

During the Civil War, she actively supported the Union to further the abolition of slavery, organizing supplies for Union hospitals and raising funds for the 122nd regiment.

Matilda Joslyn Gage stood out as an educated, radical woman in the 1800s. She devoted her life to the anti-slavery movement and women’s suffrage.

Sadly, slavery still exists today on an even larger scale. It is our responsibility to follow Gage’s example to increase awareness and help combat modern slavery. There are approximately 21 million people enslaved around the world today and this illicit business generates about $150 million for exploiters annually. Dismantling the business of human trafficking will take a three-pronged approach: increasing the risks for perpetrators, decreasing the profits, and increasing resources for anti-trafficking policies.

To learn more about how to build on the work of Matilda Joslyn Gage and other abolitionists, please see our blueprint, on “How to Dismantle the Business of Human Trafficking.”


Published on September 30, 2015


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