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Winter Newsletter

Our winter newsletter is here! Click below to download a PDF, or email us at matildajgagefoundation@gmail.com for a clickable version.

Winter Newsletter 2014

Happy Holidays from the Gage Center

Dear Friend,christmashouse

With your support, we continue to put the ideas and ideals of Matilda Joslyn Gage into practice in the 21st century in new and exciting ways:

  • The Girl Ambassadors for Human Rights Program continues to grow, now with students representing a record 12 different high schools from Syracuse, Onondaga Nation, Onondaga County, and surrounding counties
  • New partnerships and collaborations developed, including Cazenovia College’s CreateAThon and Syracuse University’s Community Link Program
  • Volunteers, from docents to gardeners to office helpers, logged over 1,000 hours this year as we shared Matilda’s message from our house in Fayetteville to the wider community

Thank you, for the part YOU have played in this story, as a financial donor or as a volunteer. With your ongoing support, we can do even more in 2015, including:

  • A revamped gift shop, with exciting new inventory
  • Girl Ambassadors’ trip to Washington, DC, to meet with leaders from Women for Women International and other influential NGOs
  • More regularly scheduled hours for visitor-inspired AND docent-led tours, to make it even easier for individuals and groups to plan their visits

Your year-end gift (tax-deductible) will help us take Matilda’s legacy – of an inquiring mind, an activist spirit, and a passionate commitment to human rights – into the future.

Thank you for joining us in this vital and enGAGEing work.

Best Wishes to You and Yours in the New Year,

Sarah Flick, Site Director             Holly Austin, Board President

Hoof Beats Along the Canal

Bernice Ende left the Matilda Joslyn Gage Home and rode her horse through Fayetteville. Her destination was the Canal Feeder. The “clip-clop” sound of horseshoes over a wooden bridge echoed the long-forgotten sounds of the mules that pulled boats along the Erie Canal more than 150 years ago.

Bernice is a Lady Long Rider. A Long Rider is someone who takes extremely long horseback rides, and a Lady – well, that is self-explanatory. She politely and patiently answered questions from this reporter. “Where did you start your journey, and where are you headed?”

Bernice Ende with Montana Spirit and Essie Pearl standing in front of the Gage Home 

Bernice Ende with Montana Spirit and Essie Pearl standing in front of the Gage Home

“I started at my home in north-western Montana and will eventually complete an elliptical round trip between Vancouver in Canada and the coast of Maine. Half will be in the United States and the other half in Canada.”

“Do you mean you will ride your horses all that way?”, the reporter asked incredulously.

“Of course!”, Bernice replied. “The only place I could not ride was Detroit. I had to use a horse trailer to go 100 miles around the city.”

“Where do you stay at nights?”

“I camp out and sleep with my horses; no motels or hotels at all. I don’t carry a cell phone, and I’ll be gone for 2 ½ years, traveling 8,000 miles.”

“Did you have a specific reason for undertaking this near-impossible journey?”

“Yes, I am celebrating the 100th anniversary of women winning the vote in Montana.” [*Note: women could not vote in the U.S. until 1920, but Montana was more progressive.] That is why I came to the Matilda Joslyn Gage Home. I also stopped at Seneca Falls [site of the 1st Women’s Rights Convention] and the home of Susan B. Anthony.

The reporter asked Bernice what she thought of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Home.

“It was the best experience of all. Matilda was the strongest leader of all of them.”

“Do you always ride the same horse?” “I’m riding Spirit today. Pearl is the packhorse. Tomorrow, I’ll switch and ride Pearl.”

“What will you do in winter?”

“I’m going to return to Central New York. There is a lot I can learn here. All I’ll need is a shed for the horses.” “

What! Do you know what our Central New York winters are like!”

“Do you know what a northern Montana winter is like?”

And so this reporter said farewell to the Lady Long Rider. He stood by the bridge over the Erie Canal and watched Bernice ride along the towpath, trailing a horse behind her. He wondered where she would find a camping place later in the day.

- Dave Kellogg

Board Member, Docent Extraordinaire

Read the Syracuse.com article about Bernice’s visit here. Visit Bernice’s website to learn more about her epic journey!

Fall in love with the Gage Center: Autumn Events Guide

Oh, September in Central New York. For Matilda, September was the month when she gave her first public address at the third National Women’s Rights Convention in Syracuse, NY (1852).  The month she and Henry moved from the Village of Manlius to the beautiful Fayetteville home (1854) we know so well, and the month she spent hard at work planning her famous protest with the New York City Woman Suffrage Association at the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty (1886).

For the Gage Center, it’s the kickoff of a season full of exciting new and returning programming! Here are some highlights of the season’s events:

  • The Gage Center will host Spooky Story Time from 5:30-8:30PM on September 26, 27 and October 3, 4 (the same nights as OHA’s “Fayetteville Phantoms” ghost walks). Enjoy OHA’s ghost walk while Matilda and friends entertain your children (ages 5+) with tales of the past in the Oz Family Parlor. Arts and crafts will also be available. Light refreshments will be provided. Reservations required by September 19th. $6 per child, $8 after deadline. Parents may attend for free! Please contact Sarah at 315-637-9511 for more information and to make reservations.
  • Sue Boland, the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center historian, will again offer her popular walking tours of historic Fayetteville. All walking tours start at 2PM. Tickets are $10, $8 for seniors. Download the complete schedule of walking tours, including descriptions of each tour, by clicking here. Fall2014WalkingTours
  • You can also visit our Facebook page for detailed event info and updates.

Fall Calendar

Sunday, September 14: Fayetteville’s Boom and Power of Water (Neighborhood Tour)

Saturday, September 20Fayetteville Festival

Monday, September 22: Girl Ambassadors application deadline

Friday, September 26: Spooky Story Time

Saturday, September 27: Spooky Story Time

Sunday, September 28: Matilda and Friends, Together Forever (Cemetery Tour)

Friday, October 3: Spooky Story Time

Saturday, October 4: Spooky Story Time

Sunday, October 19: The War Against Slavery in the North (Neighborhood Tour)

Sunday, November 2: Votes (and voting) for Women (Neighborhood Tour)


***Email Outages***

Please note that the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation has been experiencing technically difficulties with our email accounts. We have now successfully transferred to a new system, and all problems have been resolved. If you attempted to contact us between August 25th and September 9th and have not heard back, please resend your message to foundation@matildajoslyngage.org or matildajgagefoundation@gmail.com. Thank you for your understanding!


August Newsletter: Girl Ambassadors for Human Rights

The latest Gage Center newsletter is here! Click below to download it as a pdf, or join our mailing list by emailing us at foundation@matildajoslyngage.org.

August Newsletter 2014

Meet the Author: From Eve to Evolution

Join us for an engaging evening with Kimberly Hamlin, author of From Eve To Evolution, as she explores the fascinating relationship between evolutionary science and Gage-era feminism.

While you’re here, be sure to check out the museum and reacquaint yourself with all things Gage!

6:30PM – 8:30PM
July 9, 2014

The Matilda Joslyn Gage Center
210 E. Genesee Street
Fayetteville, NY 13066

- Donations Requested -

About From Eve to Evolution

In her landmark book Woman, Church and State, Matilda Joslyn Gage challenged literal interpretations of the Genesis creation story and urged readers to resist any religion which held that women were inherently inferior to men. Darwinian evolutionary theory offered a new creation story and provided forward-Hamlin From Eve to Evolution coverthinking women like Gage with scientific evidence that perhaps Adam and Eve never existed. From Eve to Evolution traces many of the women in Gage’s circle and analyzes the ways in which they used evolutionary science for feminist purposes. It provides the first full-length study of American women’s responses to evolution and illuminates the role science played in the nineteenth-century women’s rights movement. Kimberly A. Hamlin reveals how a number of nineteenth-century women, raised on the idea that Eve’s sin forever fixed women’s subordinate status, embraced Darwinian evolution as an alternative to the Genesis creation story and as evidence for their beliefs that women’s professional labor and reproductive autonomy were “natural.”


About Author Kimberly Hamlin

A native of Syracuse (West Genesee High School class of 1992), Kimberly Hamlin directs the American Studies Program and is Associate Professor of American studies and history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Hamlin’s teaching and research focus on the intersections of science, gender, and culture. She is the author of From Eve to Evolution: Darwin, Science, and Women’s Rights in Gilded Age America (University of Chicago Press, 2014). Her article, “‘The Case of a Bearded Woman’: Hypertrichosis and the Construction of Gender in the Age of Darwin” Kimberly Hamlin book cover(American Quarterly, Dec. 2011), earned her the Nineteenth Century Studies Association’s Emerging Scholar Award for 2012. Hamlin has held research fellowships at the Huntington Library, the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard, the Sophia Smith Collection, and the Countway Library on the History of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, among other institutions. Her dissertation (University of Texas, 2007) was a finalist for two national awards: the Organization of American Historians’ Lerner-Scott Prize for the Best Dissertation in U.S. Women’s History (2008) and the American Studies Association’s Ralph Henry Gabriel Dissertation Prize (2008). Hamlin also served as historical consultant for the PBS documentary “Troop 1500:Girl Scouts Beyond Bars” and as a research assistant for Ken Burns’ documentary on the national parks.

Learn more here.

New Chapter for the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center

It has been a very exciting time at the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation over the past six months and we are happy to report that our reorganization is complete and the future of the organization continues to be carefully shaped by the mission and vision from which it was founded.  The following three statements by Founding Director, Sally Roesch Wagner, Board President, Holly Austin, Esq., and new Site Director and Girl Ambassador Program Director, Sarah Flick will give you a measure of the direction, dedication and passion involved in the future of Gage.

In the words of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center’s Founding Director, Sally Roesch Wagner, “I was well aware of the “founder syndrome” – the all-too-frequent case where the founder sticks around too long, the organization stagnates, and finally dies.  I’m an innovator.  I like to start things but not keep them going in the day-to-day operations.  So I was ready to step down as the Executive Director last fall.  Quite honestly, it wasn’t clear where the Foundation would go.  It was at a crossroads.

I’d led us in the creation of a nationally-recognized, award-winning innovative historic house museum turned into a Center for Social Justice Dialogue.  We were beginning to appear in museum books and journals and taught in museum studies classes.  Would the Gage Foundation continue in the same direction or would they retrench into one more dusty museum?  Rumors floated:  The Onondaga Historical Association was taking over the Gage Center.  Or it was closing its doors.  In truth, neither of these were ever considered as options.  The board of directors wisely hired Beth Leibrick, a savvy, thoughtful consultant and began a reorganization process.  The result?  More than I ever could have dreamed possible; a potential model for how a museum redefines itself after the founder steps down.  With the direction of the consultant, the board has committed to moving forward with renewed energy with the innovative museum concept we began.

I stayed on as Director of our Girl Ambassador for Human Rights program until the end of the school year, and now I say with a grin on my face a mile wide, I turn it over to Sarah Flick, a brilliant young woman whom I’ve mentored over the past six months, and watched her brilliantly organize and innovate.  The board took my advice and hired her as my successor, adding on the role of Site Manager.  How many founders get to turn over the reins to someone they admire, someone with creative and enthusiastic energy well beyond their own?  I feel blessed and grateful to the board who, under the dynamic leadership of President Holly Austin, will carry on the vision in new and innovative ways.

I’m not going away.  I’ve agreed to continue as a consultant for a while, to ensure the institutional memory is preserved and assist Sarah with the Girl Ambassador program.  Beyond that, I am pursuing with enthusiasm the vision of the late Joanne Silverstein, assistant research professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies and our first Local Advisory Committee chair, of making all of Gage’s writing available through an interactive, dialogue website, using the model we’ve created in the Gage Center. Partnering with the Gage Foundation every step of the way, the synergy of the Gage Center and Gage 2.0 will move ahead our shared dream of bringing Matilda to the attention of the world.

I thank you for your support and commitment – we’ve created something amazing together. And together we’ll now create even more.”

As Board President, Holly Austin, Esq., stated, “It is my pleasure to report that the Gage Foundation remains a vital and powerful place.  In the two and a half years that I have been on the board, I have seen how people come to our museum and leave changed.  They leave more thoughtful about social justice issues, and inspired by Matilda Joslyn Gage – the woman she was and the legacy she has left behind.  The young women who participate in our Girl Ambassador Program will be leaders throughout their lives.  They are amazing, living examples that the work of the Gage Foundation is so very important.

And working is exactly what we have been doing!  It has been 6 months of intensive financial, succession, and strategic planning by the Gage Board and by Sally Roesch Wagner, with the help of an organizational consultant, Beth Leibrick. We are finally able to have Sally step back from running the Foundation as Executive Director and move to being Founding Director, so she can do other remarkable things with her time, which she has been asking the Board to plan for several years now. We have just hired Sarah Flick to be our new Site Director and Director of the Girl Ambassador Program.  Sarah has been deeply involved in the Girl Ambassador program this past year, and brings amazing energy and excitement to the Gage Foundation.

It feels wonderful knowing that we have made significant strides to ensure the Foundation, the House, and our Programs will exist and thrive long into the future.  Now all we need is your help.  We invite you to come visit us, and bring friends.  Become a member.  Tell people about the Gage Foundation and invite them to visit.

Most importantly, your financial support will ensure we continue to be innovative and influential in educating current and future generations about Matilda Joslyn Gage’s work and its power to drive contemporary social change.”

Sarah Flick, Site Director

And finally, Sarah Flick, Gage’s new Site Director and Program Director is poised to lead the Gage Foundation into the future with the following comments, “I am excited for the opportunity to grow with the Gage Foundation during this dynamic time. Through my work with the Girl Ambassador Program, I have witnessed the inspirational power of Matilda Joslyn Gage’s legacy. Everyone who meets our Girl Ambassadors, from the social activists we met during our trip to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, to the many local professionals who donate their time and expertise, has come away impressed by the passion for and grasp of social issues each girl possesses. When these incredible young women join the program, they already have an enthusiasm for social justice. But it is the enduring power and cultural relevance of Gage’s ideas that bring them together, bind their collective knowledge, and inspire a dialogue that they will continue and share as they move through the world.

It is dialogue that sets the Gage Center apart. There is a vibrant international conversation growing about social justice. I can think of no better place to join that conversation than right here in Central New York: the cradle of the women’s rights movement. Through cross-generational dialogue and thought-provoking exhibits, we provide a gateway to those who seek real social change. As the foundation continues to grow, we seek to combine Matilda’s vision, Sally’s vision, and the evolving vision of our Girl Ambassadors.

As we move forward, I encourage you to rediscover what the Gage Foundation has to offer. I welcome you to come to the house; I would love to meet you. Schedule a tour for a group of your friends. Keep an eye on your inboxes for information on upcoming events and program information. Follow our new social media presence. And, of course, encourage your teenage daughters to apply for our Girl Ambassador Program this fall.

Remember, it is your intellectual and financial contributions that make everything we do possible. Please join us, contribute to the museum, and become a part of Matilda Joslyn Gage’s powerful and continuing legacy.

Thank you for your new and continued support of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation. We look forward to continuing and building upon Sally Roesch Wagner’s award winning vision through 2020 and beyond.”


Thank you for your interest in the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, we appreciate your past support and your continued support as we move into this next exciting phase as an organization.



Sally Roesch Wagner, Ph.D.
Founding Director

Holly K. Austin, Esq.
Board President

Sarah M. Flick
Site Director, Program Director

Message from Founding Director Sally Roesch Wagner

In the winter of 1999 I moved into a leaky apartment in a paint-chipping house at 210 East Genesee St. in Fayetteville, NY. My goal: restore and open to the public the home of Matilda Joslyn Gage, one of the unsung heroines of the women’s rights movement. Fourteen years later, after a million dollar capital campaign, the Gage Home is an award-winning Center for Dialogue on Social Justice Issues, lauded as a model for the new participatory, dialogue-driven museum of the future.  The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience awarded us a grant to develop a pilot dialogue program on reproductive choice, and then asked us to be the U.S. partner with museums in Chile and Sri Lanka in creating a Girl Ambassador for Human Rights program.  In the past several years we have been recognized nationally and internationally– and I have been traveling extensively to present at conferences, seminars and even to testify on Capitol Hill.  Last year I received the Katherine Coffey award for museum excellence, presented by the Mid-Atlantic Museum Association.

All of this unexpected attention, while gratifying, places a burden not only on my own time, but also on our other ongoing programs. We need to pause, take a breath, and look closely at our goals, succession planning and capacity. The board took a first step by establishing the Girl Ambassador program as our signature initiative.  Twenty Girl Ambassadors were chosen this year from 11 local high schools, a richly diverse group learning from each other as well as our international connections, with five girls returning from last year as mentors. Seven of the Girl Ambassadors presented at the recent CNY Social Studies conference on women’s rights, and the girls are all interviewing women leaders locally and nationally and planning a March trip to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

The second step involves exploring ways to continue both the local and national work without straining either endeavor. We maintain our local footprint, with a museum embraced by residents and tourists alike. Visitors are invited to break all the rules of museums – sit on the furniture, eat and drink, try on the clothes, play the piano and write on the walls.  We use dialogue as the language of the organization, and social-justice themed rooms as the interpretive plan.   We are not closing our doors, but will require patience as we work through best next steps.

While the Gage Foundation Board of Trustees reorganizes and plans for the next phase of our work I am transitioning from Executive Director to Founding Director, concentrating on the Girl Ambassador program.  This is an opportunity I welcome and have long sought. I want to celebrate what we’ve achieved, and to thank the community for your generous welcome and support of the new kid on the block, seeing the potential of the Gage Center and ensuring that it would become a vital part of this community.

I invite everyone to join us – board, volunteers and donors – in envisioning the future. Feel free to contact us at foundation@matildajoslyngage.org. The community has been an integral part of creating this Gage Foundation legacy and I want to thank you for your faith and encouragement and support.  Together we have done great things. There are more great things awaiting us together in the future.  Stay tuned….


Sally Roesch Wagner, Ph.D.

Founding Director, the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation

Adjunct Faculty, Honors Program, Syracuse University

Statement Regarding Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation Reorganization

The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation is entering an exciting period of reorganization. The impetus for this change is in part because it is time to grant our founder’s request to engage in succession planning, to help move the organization toward a thriving future existence. Accordingly Sally Roesch Wagner will move into a role as Founding Director instead of Executive Director. She will still be our visionary, but we hope to be able to support her vision with a restructured set of staff roles to help give the organization a life that will exist long into the future.

This period of reorganization is also essential for strengthening the Foundation’s financial position. We will spend time planning how to make most use of our existing resources, and seek opportunities for increasing funding sources to ensure the organization’s future. Not-for-profit organizations need to think creatively about how to capitalize on limited resources, and we will be using this opportunity to do so.

During this transition time we will be operating with reduced staff, but it is our intention to fulfill current commitments for tours, programs, etc. As we explore our appropriate role in the local and regional landscape, we welcome input from all. The board remains committed to our mission of educating current and future generations about Gage’s work and its power to drive contemporary social change.

Board of Trustees 

Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation

Sue Boland leads walk about voting rights and political activism, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2:00-3:00pm

Sue Boland, the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center historian, will offer three walking tours this fall highlighting Matilda Joslyn Gage and the important places where history happened in Fayetteville, NY:

Sunday, September 15, 2013 at 2 PM: The Erie Canal and its influence on the Gage Family and Fayetteville.
Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 2 PM: Anti-slavery and Underground Railroad sites
Sunday, November 3, 2013 at 2 PM: The story of women’s struggle for voting rights and political activism in the 1800s.

All tours, rain or shine, will be 60 – 90 minutes in length. Admission is $5 and includes a self-guided tour of the Gage Center and an opportunity to browse the gift shop. Meet at the Walnut Street entrance of the Gage Center that is located at 210 E. Genesee Street. Parking is on Walnut Street. Additional parking is available at the United Church of Fayetteville parking lot accessed off Walnut Street.

Actress Mimi Kennedy brings one-woman show about Gage to Everson


The art form of the one-man theatre show has generally been a boys club. This Thursday night, however, the women get their just due.

Stage and screen actress, and Rochester, NY native, Mimi Kennedy — known for her comedic turns in “Dharma & Greg” and Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”– is performing her one-woman show “Mimi Kennedy Finds Matilda Joslyn Gage” at the Everson Museum Hosmer Auditorium on Thursday October 3rd at 7 p.m.
The performance piece presents the actress’s personal discovery of the influential but relatively unknown suffragist. “She was brilliant,” Kennedy said, ” Gage was fearless for justice and she said cooperation was the way of the future. Between men and women. Between black and white. She saw it as a way to better human development.”

Gage, a Central New York native, was one of the most radical leaders among the suffragist movement during the late 19th century. Supporting controversial opinions such as the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, religious freedom, and a woman’s right to control her body, Gage’s legacy is currently being cultivated and preserved by the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, located in Fayetteville, NY. Patricia Campany, the foundation’s associate director of operations, stressed the importance of the foundation. “The foundation’s mission is to educate the community on the work of Matilda Joslyn Gage and to inspire people into action for social justice,” Campany said.

Kennedy is a national ambassador for the foundation, and her performance is part event and part fundraiser. The one-woman show is the opening event for the national conference of Imagining America (a national organization that emphasizes collaborative scholarship) which is being held in Syracuse from October 4 through 6.

As a fundraiser, the proceeds raised from Kennedy’s performance will go to support not only the Gage Foundation but also the Everson Museum of Art and the Girl Ambassador for Human Rights Program. Tickets for the general performance cost $20 and $75 for a VIP reception an hour before the performance. The private reception will include an appearance by Kennedy as well as complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres.

Tickets can be purchased from the Everson Museum’s (401 Harrison Street, Syracuse, NY) welcome desk or by phone or online on the day of the performance, as well as by phone or online from the Gage Foundation.

By Nick Reichert | Contributing Writer, Syracuse Post Standard  Oct. 2, 2013

Gage Foundation a BIG hit with DAR dignitaries!

“Fabulous” “so wonderful” “impressive” were the words some of the visiting DAR officers and guests expressed after a recent visit to the Gage Center during a break from the 117th New York State Conference in Syracuse. Along with President General Lynn Young of Texas and Honorary President General Merry Ann T. Wright of New York, out of state guests and honorary state regents of New York enjoyed a high tea and talk by Founder/Director Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner and posed for a photo of the group on the front steps of the Gage Home.


Tickets for Oct. 3 performance: “Mimi Kennedy Finds Matilda Joslyn Gage”

“Mimi Kennedy Finds Matilda Joslyn Gage”, a one-woman show about Onondaga County’s most famous woman will be presented at the Everson Museum of Art’s Hosmer Auditorium on Thursday, Oct. 3 at 7:00.  Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at  https://www.everson.org/visit/tickets.php or at the Everson Welcome Desk on the day of the performance.  (A limited number of $75.00 VIP tickets are available for a reception with the actress before the show.) 

Patrons who have already made payment for the Oct. 3 performance by Mimi Kennedy will be asked to come to the check-in table right inside the Everson Museum on the evening of the performance.  No tickets have been issued.

If you have purchased a VIP ticket, come to the front door of the Everson at 6:00, give your name at the table and someone will escort you to the reception area. 

The Everson is located at 401 Harrison St. in Syracuse.

This performance is a special fundraiser with proceeds to benefit the Girl Ambassador for Human Rights Program as well as the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation and the Everson Museum of Art. The public is invited to visit the Everson prior to the show and view Jordan Eagles: RED GIANT.

Ms. Kennedy most recently appeared in Woody Alley’s 2011 film, “Midnight in Paris”.  Many remember her as Dharma’s hippy mom in the long-running sitcom, “Dharma and Greg”.   http://www.mimikennedy.org/.

“Mimi Kennedy Finds Matilda Joslyn Gage” kicks off the 2013 Imagining America National, A Call to Action.  http://imaginingamerica.org/convenings/national-conference/2013-national-conference/ The performance is funded in part by a Tier Three Development Grant awarded by CNYARTS with public funds allocated by Onondaga County

Everson Logo

cnyarts logo

'Freethought Trail' Honors Forgotten Leaders Of U.S. History - Huffington Post

SENECA FALLS, N.Y. (RNS) More than 29,000 people visit the Women’s Rights National Historical Park each year, where they sit on the wooden pews in the faded brick Wesleyan Chapel where, in 1848, 100 activists signed the first document in world history to declare “all men and women are created equal.”


Religion News Service  |  By Kimberly Winston Posted: 09/01/2013 12:48 pm EDT

Reprint of article in Washington Post, August 26,2013.

N.Y. Freethought Trail traces nonbelievers’ historic course - Washington Post

SENECA FALLS, N.Y. — More than 29,000 people visit the Women’s Rights National Historical Park each year, where they sit on the wooden pews in the faded brick Wesleyan Chapel where, in 1848, 100 activists signed the first document in world history to declare “all men and women are created equal.”But most visitors will hear little of the role that freethought — the philosophical view that challenges both religious and secular  orthodoxies — played in extending women the right to vote in 1920.

What’s more, not many know that without freethought there would have been no push for women’s equality, abolition or reproductive rights.Now, the Council for Secular Humanism, based in nearby Amherst, is seeking to highlight that history with “The Freethought Trail,” a self-guided tour through some of the most important historical sites dotting the rolling farmland and glacial lakes of West-Central New York.

With a glossy, fold-out brochure and map, a detailed website and a smartphone mobile recording, the Freethought Trail looks to restore awareness of freethought’s influence on some of the most important figures and social movements of the 19th century.

“Some of the sites and the people they are associated with are widely visited, but the freethought aspect isn’t usually touched on,” said Tom Flynn, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism and one of the main researchers of the Trail. “They don’t build it into their general presentations because I suppose some visitors would find it offensive. But it is part of the history, and not to share that is to short-change the visitors and the history itself.”

Drawn by the opening of the Erie Canal in the early 1800s, settlers transformed the region into a hotbed of radical social ideas. Religious ideas blossomed, too, including Mormonism, Spiritualism, several utopian movements and the development of the Protestant social gospel. By the late 1800s, the area was called “the burned over district” for all its religious and social fervor and reformers including Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Amelia Bloomer made it their home.

Flynn came up with the idea for a trail a decade ago with historian Sally Roesch Wagner.

Why, they asked each other, did so many people remember Douglass and Anthony while many of their equally important contemporaries — Matilda Joslyn Gage, Robert Green Ingersoll and, to an extent, Stanton — were forgotten?

“The answer is they were freethinkers,” Wagner said from The Matilda Joslyn Gage Center, a stately Greek revival home in Fayetteville, on the eastern edge of the Freethought Trail, where she is director. “In a word, that is the reason.”

Wagner has spent 40 years studying what has come to be called “first wave feminism” of the 19th century. Her thinking goes like this: after the Seneca Falls convention, Stanton, Gage and Anthony became a triumvirate in the newly formed National Woman Suffrage Association. Stanton and Gage, both freethinkers who did not attend church, did the organizing and writing, while Anthony, a Quaker, became the movement’s public face.

Both Stanton and Gage became increasingly critical of organized religion. Both wrote about their belief that Christianity kept women subordinate and urged women — and men — to reject it. They pointed to Scriptures that denied women a voice in church and contemporary ministers who preached women should remain at home.

Privately, Anthony — a member of the dissenting Hicksite sect of Quakers — agreed with her friends, but felt that focusing on anything other than the right to vote was a distraction. After the Civil War, her new allies in Christian women’s temperance groups demanded distance from Stanton and Gage’s unorthodox views. Gage left the movement in disgust, and Stanton was formally renounced and repudiated by the movement in 1896.

“I cannot even begin to imagine her feeling of betrayal,” Wagner said. “They were written out of the history” of the women’s movement.At the 75th anniversary of the Seneca Falls convention, only Stanton’s daughter Harriot, herself a reformer, memorialized her mother with a plaque inside the Wesleyan Chapel. The Freethought Trail works to repair the rift. It includes multiple Gage sites, including her gravesite and her house, the site where her son-in-law, L. Frank Baum, first encountered freethought ideas he eventually incorporated into the “The Wizard of Oz.”

Stanton gets the star treatment at her Seneca Falls home, where she cared for seven children; at the Wesleyan Chapel; and at a house in nearby Waterloo where she composed the convention’s “Declaration of Sentiments” that included the words “and women” to the Declaration of Independence’s promise of equality. Outside the chapel, water cascades down a granite wall engraved with Stanton’s sentiments, many reflecting freethought.

“Mankind allows her in Church as well as State, but a subordinate position,” one reads, “claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.”

Other sites are more well-known, especially the Douglass and Anthony homes and graves, all in Rochester, and the Grandin Print Shop in Palmyra. That’s where Joseph Smith printed the first edition of The Book of Mormon —alongside publishers of a freethought newspaper. Its publisher, Obadiah Dogberry, got an early look at Smith’s work, drawn from golden tablets Smith claimed to have found in the nearby hills, and skewered it in his next edition. The Grandin Print Shop is now run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the word “freethought” is not evident in its displays. Freethought Trail visitors must dial a number on their smartphones to hear its version of history.

“Dogberry found the future scripture ridiculous,” Flynn’s voice intones on the recording.  “It was the first lay criticism of the Book of Mormon, and many of its criticisms are upheld by contemporary scholars.”

At Anthony’s house, where visitors can see “Aunt Susan’s” trademark black silk dress and alligator handbag, docent J.D. Lynne easily and eagerly responded to a visitor’s question about freethought in the women’s history.

“People who did not hold traditional religious beliefs, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, may have influenced our history more than religious people,” he said in a second floor bedroom where Stanton was often a guest.

Some sites receive only a trickle of visitors. The Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, in lakeside Dresden, is the first stop on the Freethought Trail. There, for a $2 fee, visitors can view the bedroom where the orator known as “the Great Agnostic” was born and have their picture taken with a giant bust of his head rescued from the rubble of a 19th century theater.

Other sites flesh out the history of anarchist Emma Goldman, abolitionist Lucy Colman, author Mark Twain and birth-control activist Margaret Sanger — all freethinkers, according to the Trail’s organizers. In total, 59 sites dot the Finger Lakes region, running from Rochester in the west to Peterboro in the east and from Palmyra in the north to Elmira in the south.Currently, the Freethought Trail is the only one of its kind, Flynn said, but he knows of several other regions of the U.S. rich in both history and largely unknown freethought connections.

They include the Plains states, where freethinkers published newspapers and challenged “blue” laws;  the Texas panhandle where German freethinkers settled; and The Pacific Northwest, where the first atheist university was (briefly) founded.

“The upshot is that if you had some people who knew their local history and the movement’s history, I could foresee 20 or 30 freethought trails in different regions around the country,” he said. That would suit Erik Sandhal, 22, just fine.

Touring the Wesleyan Chapel with his family, Sandhal said he had taken a history course on American rhetoric that discussed Stanton, but not her religious beliefs.

“I would have liked to know about that,” he said. “It makes me think of these people as a more diverse group.”

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.  Washington Post

Smithsonian Channel's The Origins of Oz

The Origins of Oz


“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,’ author L. Frank Baum’s timeless story, inspired the most beloved characters in pop-culture history. Visit the real-life locations that inspired Baum’s ‘Land of Oz’ and discover how this classic tale came to be.” This 2010 film from Smithsonian Channel includes commentary from John Fricke, Michael Patrick Hearn, and Gita Morena.

Fiore's Portrait of Gage Hangs in Congressman Maffei's DC Office

Matilda comes to Maffei. Patrick Fiore’s portrait of Matilda Joslyn Gage now graces the Washington office of Congressman Dan Maffei.

Congressman Dan Maffei adds Matilda Joslyn Gage to his “great Americans of our region” display in his Washington DC office.

Congressman Dan Maffei with portrait of Matilda Joslyn Gage, by Patrick Fiore

Congressman Dan Maffei with portrait of Matilda Joslyn Gage, by Patrick Fiore

A portrait of Matilda Joslyn Gage by Patrick Fiore is on display in Congressman Dan Maffei’s Washington office. The portrait, part of our Significant Souls social justice art project with Artrage Gallery, which was funded by an IDEAS grant, was unveiled in the Gage Center on March 8, International Women’s Day. Patrick describes the painting in this way:

Born in Cicero, New York, Ms. Gage inspired passions and organized the political action of the 19th century woman suffrage movement in the United States. The challenge with this portrait was to recreate her likeness in a contemporary image that would represent all women who fought for their rights. She exists as an icon for a movement. The flag reminds us that all Americans claim ownership of its symbolism regardless of gender, race or religious belief.

Congressman Maffei with Gage portrait

Congressman Maffei with Gage portrait

The moment has come for women's equality in New York: Commentary

Opinion piece in the Syracuse Post Standard online

New York has been a leader in women’s rights from the nation’s first convention held in Seneca Falls during 1848. While we justly herald the state’s uniqueness as the birthplace of the struggle for women to win the right the vote, our legacy is even richer. Gov. Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Agenda, being considered by the legislative today, follows the program of the three leaders of the National Woman Suffrage Association – all New Yorkers. – Sally Roesch Wagner


Find the Matilda in You

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History. The Rebels Get Written Out.Caitlin Hunter, a student at Syracuse University, created a blog about Gage, “Finding the Matilda in You”.


Matilda Joslyn Gage Footer