Welcome to the Home of Matilda Joslyn Gage:
One of Our Nation’s Most Important Historic Sites
You enter the Gage Home through the newly constructed Ruth Putter Welcome Center, located at the back of the house where a woodshed once stood. You will quickly discover that this place is not just one more dusty museum where you see how an important person lived. It is a museum of conscience in community, where the vision of human freedom and democracy that fired Matilda Joslyn Gage 150 years ago speaks to the present and resonates into the future.
This is a dynamic place of civil engagement, where people come together to dialogue about issues like human trafficking, reproductive rights, religious freedom and native sovereignty. Here the Underground Railroad, women’s rights, treaty rights and the separation of church and state join Oz as we piece together the amazing fabric of the history Gage embodies so we can better plan for the future.
This home is a unique place where we share Gage’s inspiring history of social justice and prepare the future keepers of democracy. While many historic homes have one story to tell, the Gage Home is especially significant because it interprets a rich five-dimensional segment of United States history: women’s rights, abolition, the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) influence on democracy and women’s rights, the ongoing struggle to keep religion out of government and the utopian vision of peace and social justice presented in the Oz books.
Matilda Joslyn Gage was a co-leader of the early women’s rights movement alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Her magnificent Greek Revival house in Fayetteville, N.Y., in which she lived and worked for 44 years, stands today as a testament to the ongoing struggle for liberty, justice, and civil rights.
Gage held executive positions in the National Woman Suffrage Association throughout its existence, and as much women’s rights work took place in the Gage Home as in any other women’s history site in the United States. The home is part of the National Park Service’s proposed “Votes for Women” trail and New York State’s Women’s Heritage Trail.
Gage’s home is included in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom and the New York State Underground Railroad Heritage Trail. Gage and her husband, Henry, were willing to risk six months in jail and thousands of dollars in fines in order to shelter freedom takers.
The Matilda Joslyn Gage Home is the only women’s history site where the influence of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) upon the early women’s rights leaders is explained. Gage was adopted into the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk Nation and given the name Ka-ron-ien-ha-wi, or “Sky Carrier.” She wrote about the gender equality in the traditional Haudenosaunee culture, which was absent from her Euro-American culture.
The Gage Home is also the only house in the United States open to the public where L. Frank Baum lived. The author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz married Gage’s daughter Maud in its front parlor, and the young couple visited there often, living in the home for a brief period of time in 1887. Gage became one of Baum’s intellectual mentors and encouraged him to write down his stories.
Because of Gage’s courageous stand for separation of church and state during a time when conservatives sought to make Christianity the official religion of the United States, her home stands as an icon for religious freedom as well as a site on the Freethought Trail. In 1890, Gage left her friends in the suffrage movement and formed the Woman’s National Liberal Union, which was dedicated to maintaining religious freedom and challenging the oppressive elements of religious fundamentalism.
We are honored that this Welcome Center carries the name of Ruth Putter, a distinguished local photographer who has been active in social justice causes her whole life. Ruth is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation.