Episode 240 – “Matilda Joslyn Gage: Bringing Her into History, Part I”

This week on CenterStage, Part One of a lecture by famed historian and feminist Sally Roesch Wagner, profiling forgotten suffrage leader – and freethinker – Matilda Joslyn Gage.

On August 16th and 17th, 2014, the Center for Inquiry presented a conference entitled “Robert Green Ingersoll and the Reform Imperative” at its headquarters in Amherst, New York. This event celebrated Ingersoll, perhaps the best-known unbeliever of America’s Gilded Age. Ingersoll was born in 1833 in Dresden, a village in New York’s Finger Lakes district. The conference placed Ingersoll in context with other freethinking reformers with roots in west-central New York State, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, and Matilda Joslyn Gage.

This week, Sally Roesch Wagner presents “Matilda Joslyn Gage: Bringing Her into History.”

Sally Roesch Wagner is the Founding Director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, which in 2010 opened Gage’s Fayetteville, New York, home to the public as an innovative museum. She is the nation’s foremost authority on Gage, and co-founder of the Freethought Trail.

To center stage, bringing you the best from the Center for Inquiry, a nonprofit organization that seeks to foster a secular society based on science reason. Freedom of inquiry and humanist values. 

Presenting lectures and events at its headquarters in Amherst, New York, and in New York City, Washington, Los Angeles and elsewhere. There’s always something thought provoking and controversy along on stage at some center for inquiry. Join us now on center stage. 

Welcome to Center Stage. I’m Debbie Goddard director of outreach at the Center for Inquiry today on center stage part one of a lecture by famed historian and feminist Sally Rouche Wagner profiling forgotten suffrage leader and free thinker Matilda Jocelyn Gage. 

And I’m Tom Flynn editor of Free Inquiry magazine. On August 16th and 17th, 2014, the Center for Inquiry presented a conference entitled Robert Green, Ingersoll and the Reform Imperative at its headquarters in Amherst, New York. 

This event celebrated Ingersol. 

Perhaps the best known unbeliever of America’s Gilded Age, Ingersoll was born in 1833 in Dresden, a village in New York’s Finger Lakes district. 

The conference placed Ingersol in context with other freethinking reformers with roots in west central New York state, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass and Matilda Johnson Gage. 

Over our next two episodes, Center Stage will present the keynote lecture from this one of a kind event. 

This week, Sally Roesch Wagner presents Matilda Jocelyn Gage bringing her into history. 

Sally Roesch Wagner is the founding director of the Matilda Jocelin Gage Foundation, which in 2010 opened Gauger’s Fayetteville, New York, home to the public as an innovative museum. She is the nation’s foremost authority on Gaige and co-founder of the Freethought Trail. 

Sally Roesch Wagner’s lecture was sponsored by the New York Council for the Humanities Speakers and the Humanities program. In part one, she will be introduced to the Ingersol Conference by my co-host Tom Flynn and present at the first half of her lecture. 

I’d like to welcome back our participants who’ve been here with us all day for the conference, Robert Green, Ingersoll and the Reform Imperative. I’d also like to thank all of the new folks who have just joined us this evening. If you just came out this evening for the talk. Please raise your hands. 

Oh, very good. Very good. 

This talk is a presentation is a very special presentation. It’s an adjunct to the Ingersol conference, but not formally a part of it. It is offered by the Center for Inquiry and offered free to the public in cooperation with the Speakers in the Humanities program of the New York Council for the Humanities. And there are people in Albany who are listening for me to say that I’m Tom Flynn. I’m vice president of the Center for Inquiry here and the editor of Free Inquiry magazine and among other things, the co-founder of the Freethought Trail. The Freethought Trail is an informal, historic trail. It’s really difficult to drive it from one end to the other. It’s kind of scattered over 60 sites between Rochester and points just east of Syracuse. It includes museums, includes marked historic sites and absolutely unmarked sites whose history you only know if you know the history. And you can stand at the corner of 4th and Franklin and downtown Watkins Glen to name one example and be the only person there among all the folks who are going from winery to winery and antique shop, the antique shop or heading out to the races. You will be the only one who knows that you are standing on the spot where Freethought publisher D.M. Bennett was arrested for selling a birth control to act, which would lead to the largest single petition campaign in the history of the United States that that time and lead Robert Ingersoll on two lobbying trips to the White House to try to secure Bennett’s release. Everybody else will think you’re just staring at a pizzeria. It’s weird how that works, but we’re going to hear tonight from an individual who, among many, many, many other achievements is my co-founder of the Freethought Trail. We were sitting in her office having tea when she said something along the lines of, you know, somebody ought to do this. And next thing you know, we had at that’s the beginnings of the Freethought Trail. We’ll be hearing a talk tonight titled Matilda Jocelin Gage Bringing Her into History Unless We’re Interrupted by a flood, of course. 

And our speaker is Sally Roesch Wagner. She is the founding director of the Matilda Jocelyn Gage Foundation, which in 2010 opened Gages Fayetteville, New York. Mansion or home, rather a wonderful home, but not quite a mansion to the public as a most innovative museum. Dr. Wagner is the nation’s foremost authority on Gage and as mentioned, co-founder of the Freethought Trail, she received the Katherine Coffey Award from the Mid Atlantic Association of Museums in 2012. One of the first women to receive a doctorate for work in women’s studies. In the United States, she’s also a founder of one of the country’s first women’s studies program at Cal State Sacramento, and she’s currently adjunct faculty in the honors program at Syracuse University. Ladies and gentlemen, bringing us Matilda Jocelyn Gage, bringing her into history. My colleague and great friend, Sally Roesch Wagner. 

Thank you so much. 

Is it OK? Takes a minute. 

Well, for those of you who were here for the conference today, I will explain for those of you who were that people began to identify who they were personally. And it reminded me of a story from my from my past that I wanted to share with you. And it is to recognize myself and place myself in context. So, you know, when you’re hearing a story from history, you really need to know the position of the historian. Whereas the historian coming from, you know what how what is the lens through which this is being focused? 

Well, I am here to come out to you as an amphibian. And here’s the story, my grandson, when he was seven to 10, I don’t remember exactly how old he came up to me. He said he was really upset. 

He said, you never came to my baptism. How come you didn’t come to my baptism? 

And I explained to him that it was based on the Christian concept that we’re born into evil because we’re born a woman. 

And that I didn’t believe that. And that I didn’t want to take part in a ceremony that would bring him into the world in that way. I thought that was a good explanation. He goes to his mother and he says, How come you thought I was bad even before I was born? So she comes to me and says, look, I have some anger at you because you never gave me any Christian education. And I miss half the jokes in the world. Most of the cultural references you are going to give your grandson a Christian education, not you don’t have to make him believe that. 

You just have to explain it to you. So I think, OK, I have this responsibility. Let’s start with the Bible. So I gave him a Bible for Christmas and he was amazed. He was so impressed. So his friend comes over and he says, Branson, guess what grandma gave me for Christmas and he’s gifts. 

And, you know, whatever the major toys were that year because his grandma has a sort of a reputation for generosity. And he guesses everything he can think of it. And Michael says, No, man. She gave me a Bible. 

And Branson goes, Yeah, oh, OK. Yeah. Mike said, No, no, you don’t get it. She’s an M. 

Vivian. 

So I’m proud to say that I raised my grandson also as an amphibian. 

So this is one amphibian telling the story of another amphibian tonight, because I think we could identify Matilda. 

So it gave pretty much in that same way. I actually want to start out with a quote from Gage, and this is from the speech that she gave at the Watkins Glen Freethought convention that Tom mentioned earlier in 1878. She refers to the arrest that has just happened. 

And she says, can one of you tell me what is the foundation doctrine of the Christian church today? Does one of you know what is the foundation principle of the three great divisions of the Christian church, Catholic, Protestant and Greek? The Christian church, she answered, is based not upon Christ, but upon the fact of woman’s servitude, upon the theory that woman brought sin and death into the world and that therefore she was punished by being placed in a condition of inferiority to man a condition of the subjection of subordination. 

That is the foundation today of the Christian Church Gages analysis was twofold. 

It was that the foundation of the church was the inherent evil of woman having brought evil into the world. Thank Stanton for it. She always had the best blinds, and Stanton put it something to the effect of if you take away the serpent and you take away the apple, you’ve pulled the rug out from under Christian theology, because if there is no active eve, there’s of course, no reason for a survivor or. 

So Gages analysis was, first of all, that the foundation of the Christian church is the oppression of what is is the subordination of women, the evil of woman, the subordination of her and the foundation of woman’s oppression is the Christian church. Do you see the two fold analysis that really characterizes her life? 

And I’m going to take you on a sort of a journey through her life. If I might, through a virtual tour of the Matilda Jocelyn Gay Center for Social Justice Dialog in Fayetteville, New York. 

When you enter the house, you actually have two rules. So I’m going to make sure that you all agree to these rules. And if you don’t, I’m going to ask you, please, to leave. The two rules are one to check your dog my at the door and the other is to think for yourself. Is everybody on board? 

OK, then we can proceed. There are a few other rules as well. 

Let’s see. They are sit on the furniture. Touch the artifacts. Eat and drink. Take photographs. Please post them on your Facebook page and write on the walls. 

Literally write on the walls. 

What we did was thinking about how do we honor this woman who really stepped out of convention. 

Well, what we do is we take all the rules of museums and we turn them upside down. We say, OK, what are never, ever, ever supposed to do in museums? Well, guess what? We invite you to and we actually ask you to do those things in the Gage Center. So you’ll onboard with that. OK. And when you come to visit. So we’ll have a little wardrobe check here. 

Thank you. 

Is that going to work? Is that better? OK. Thanks so much. 

So we’ll ask you to do that. And when you come to the Gage Center, you will literally be asked to write on the walls. 

It’s one of the ways that the center is developed thinking through what people would really like. I think, Tom, when you came early on, you said there should be a timeline. Well, there is no timeline in the women’s right to. We’re going to start in the Hunter new show, NEWSROOM. And that’s the room where Gage really got her vision of what a transformed world could look like. She said never was justice more perfect, never was civilization higher. And she’s referring to the original inhabitants of the land that were out. We’re and right now the six nations of what white people came in from Columbus on and said, we’re gonna name you this, this, this, you know, from Indians on, you know, the Native American joke. 

Thank God he didn’t think that he was in Turkey. 

So the five folks came along and said, you’re iroko. Well, that ain’t what they are. 

They’re the people who The Longhouse and the Matilda Jocelyn Gage in 1875, 1875, the year before, or three years actually before the Watkins Glen speech. 

Does a series of newspaper articles, the front page of the Saturday Evening Post in New York City. She was at that point president of the National Women’s Suffrage Association. 

And she writes a series of articles talking about the superior position of her trying to show any women. Now, if we think about the position of women in the United States under the laws of the United States and all the state laws, at that point, there wasn’t the women had no rights. 

It was that they had no legal existence because as Gage explains, later in 1893, classic woman church and state canon law or church law as the foundation for common law. 

And so the two shall become one in the one is the man. That’s how you ensure the subordination that’s in the Bible from Genesis all the way to St. Paul. And you do that by saying once you marry, you become essentially a portion of your husband, you can be a part of your husband. 

That’s why there were no marital rape laws until the second wave of feminism, because it was justice, Matthew Heil said. That’s like raping yourself. You know, you can’t charge somebody with raping their wife. That’s their essence. That’s their property. That’s their extension. 

Wife battery that was religiously not only condoned sanctioned, but in some ways required. 

Because if a wife is in disobedience to her husband and she dies, she’ll end up in hell. Whose fault is it? Not hers. It’s his because he has the requirement to ensure that she is obedient to him. 

So if you love your wife and she doesn’t pay attention what you’re telling her she has to do. If you love her, you will beat her. That’s Christianity, as Gage explained it, the way in which it defines the position of women. You had no right to your children. Husbands could will away unborn children because you did not have in essence, you didn’t have a legal existence. You had no property. Once you married, everything became the property of your husbands, including your own body, your children, everything. 

What else? Well, couldn’t vote. I mean, that’s pretty ridiculous, isn’t it? You know, there’s no way, of course, that a non legal entity could vote and he couldn’t have any rights to your own property, any rights to sit on a jury to sue or be sued. You name it. You don’t exist. So none of that is present. And Gage laid all of that at the foot of the church. She was told at one point, talk about ecclesiastic CISM, talk about whatever she said. 

No, it is the church that is doing this. And that is what I will. 

Show me women have a position that is incredibly superior to what white women have at that point. 

An example, a case in point eighteen eighty eight. The International Council of Women. This is the first time that women have gathered international. 

If you can’t hear now, I said. 

OK, that’ll work. 

OK. 

So, you know, I’m getting a little nervous here because, you know, when the when the the Unitarian Church in Syracuse was struck by lightning, you can only imagine what people said was the cause. 

When Tom was introducing me, a rainstorm started. Oh, no uncommon consequence. And now the sound is gone. 

If I’m suddenly struck by lightning, I know you will all become instant believers. 

So 1888, where at the International Council of Women, it’s in Washington, D.C., women have come from all over the world, white women to talk about their position. First time ever, a woman named Alice Fletcher, who’s an early ethnographer in her talk, gives a story about she’s with a group of Omaha women, women from the Omaha nation. 

And one of the women give somebody a horse, you know, here. And Alice said, without thinking, I said to her, Have you checked with your husband? Said the merriment with which my statement was Matt. He can only imagine if these Indian women go. What planet did this woman. 

Why would you check with your husband? 

And she said it was reflexive. It was absolutely reflexive on my part. And then she talks about how it’s not just property, but she said there are there are acts and it’s all veiled in this, you know, 19th century language. 

But basically what she’s saying is if man treats a woman violently, sexually, physically, he will be taken care of by her. The men of her clan family, the Menaker Thai, owned by the men of her, you know, her her extended family, her matrilineal family. And it won’t happen again. And what she’s referring to is that among native nations, violence against women and children was just so horrendous. A friend of mine, Tilly Black Bear, who was a Chingo Lakota, talked about from her family. There was a story where a man had beaten his wife and her male relatives, gave him a knife, and he went out into the the, you know, over the hill. 

The story went in. Their family went over the hill and used the knife, killed himself. 

That was a kinder thing in some ways to happen to him than to banish him, because if they Balinese shot him, he would no longer have any existence. And if women, white women didn’t have an existence, when you’re banished, you existed because of who you are related to. You know, it’s still today in indigenous cultures. I think, therefore, I am my friend Tilly was related. Therefore, she was. And if you would go to another village or another community and they would say, who are you? 

And you couldn’t say because you had no identity, you couldn’t say, I’m so and so’s mother. I’m so-and-so son. I’m so and so’s to identify who you were. So to let this man kill himself for what he had done to a woman among the in his Shoni still today, the traditional of the six nations, the women, the clan mothers choose the chief. And they put him in position. They raise him up and they have the authority. If he does not listen to the women. If he does not listen to the people. If he does not make decisions for this seventh generation, they have the responsibility to remove him. Basically, it’s kind of a student council. Think the women are in charge? Not a bad system, but the women, the clan mothers choose the chief. Based on three considerations. One is he cannot have committed a murder. Another is he cannot have committed a theft. And the third is he cannot have abused a woman. Now, I want you to just close your eyes for a minute. And think of the Supreme Court. The White House says it has been occupied for years. The legislature, Congress, state positions, who’s left? 

If those three rules applied. There goes half a Congress, right? The Supreme Court. The women probably would still be available. But, you know, anyway, gaged knows this system. 

And she says it never was justice. More perfect. Never was civilization higher. When you live in a system that is so hegemonies that you only see women as the clinging vines that Melinda talked about this morning. You have to see that is possible. Religion was saying this is the inherent position of women biology. Science was saying this is the inherent position of women. You know, you are inferior to men physically, intellectually, in all ways. You are dependent on men. That’s why it makes perfect sense for you to be under the authority of men. This is going to be the reality unless you see somebody doing it differently. Now, imagine if your nearest neighbors are doing it completely differently. 

The people that you’re living among and I think as we live in a sort of we live in a post Ri’s age, you know, we live in an age after the reservations were established and that meant a separation of the races that actually apartheid in South Africa was based on the reservation system in the United States. That’s the reality that we know a separation of native and non-native people. That isn’t the reality that Matilda Jocelyn Gage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott knew Mort before she comes to that first women’s rights convention. You notice to planet that was held in Seneca Falls in 1848 is hanging out with Seneca women, you know, and she watches him play on the strawbery ceremony. Women have the spiritual voice. They plan the ceremonies. And in her country, I mean, in her culture, you know, even the Quakers, even the Hick’s sites, they’re going through terrible battles over the position of women at this time. But other than that, the Quakers, no women could speak in any churches in the United States anywhere. I mean, not just the United States. And Paul is very clear about this. You know, women must be cut, must be silent in the churches. And so here is Lucretia Mott seeing women with a spiritual voice. She’s seeing them with a political voice. She’s seeing them having an authority that she can’t even dream of. 

That’s the vision that Gage saw, and I think that was what really let her see it was possible for it to be a very, very different position for women. 

I think not just in terms of that, but I think in terms of her being able to throw off Christianity, she’d already begun the process. 

She read the Bible through by the age of 10. That’s an antidote in itself. I remember what I gave Michael the Bible. Here’s a little follow up story. So it gives Michael the Bible. And I said, OK, we’re going to read the Christmas story, one of home on Christmas Eve and one of them on Christmas Day. We never got to the Christmas Day one. Does it read? I’m the first one. 

And he said, well, I don’t get it. Who’s the father? Is Joseph the father? I said, Well, no, actually, God is the fourth because she did it with God. 

Oh, my God. That is so wrong. That is just gross. That was the making of the amphibian. So she read the Bible through. 

But, you know, when again, when Christianity is a shadow over everything, it is very difficult to break out of that. And I think seeing people who live in a much more civilized, she said, and moral and good way with each other gave her the vision of this is what it can look like if you get rid of Christianity. And so I think it really helped her with her free thought. I think it also really helped her with her abolition activities, because here were people where everyone has a voice. Even children even today. I mean, sterner. We can’t imagine children having the right to vote, can we, anymore than in the 19th century, could imagine women having the right to vote or African-American men having the right to vote. 

Well, the voting to show me women and children have always had a voice. 

It’s a consensus decision making. So I would imagine that, for example, if there was a little girl who her chief is being considered for, you know, this man that the grandmother was thinking of raising up as the chief. And I would imagine if there was a little girl who said, you know, one time he said something inappropriate to me or one time he touched me, that man would never be considered to be chief. Never. I mean, that would just be an end. There would be serious consequences. So Gage sees a world in balance and harmony and that becomes her model. So that’s the hot new Shoni room story. Don’t get to the women’s rights route. 

And what can I tell you about women’s rights? Oh, let me tell you about 1876, 1876. The National Women’s Suffrage Association, which was actually the radical wing of the women’s rights movement that was the American and the national and the National on the 100th anniversary of the country. 

Right. 1876, one hundred anniversary of a republic based on the consent of the governed. Well, the American Women’s Suffrage Association had a Tea Party, the National Women’s Suffrage Association said we have greater cause for discontent, rebellion and, yes, revolution than did the fathers of 1776. They were ruled by a foreign despot. We are ruled by our husbands, our fathers, our brothers and even our sons. They had local home rule. We have absolutely no voice in the government. 

So they said we are determined to protest and gauge. And Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote a Declaration of Rights of women. It’s really a much more complicated document than the Declaration of Sentiments in 1848, because this time they got 30 years under their order. They built they really have a sense of what the enemy is, what they’re fighting and how to fight it. So they penned this document and they say, we want to present this at the July 4th celebration in Independence Square. You know, it’s the big and they’re denied that we. An embarrassment to the government. So Stanton says, Wolf, that the government’s going to turn its nose up at me, I’m turning my nose up to the government. I don’t want a part of it. Neither did what. Well, Anthony Gage, three other women said and gay torok, whatever the mandate to the contrary, we determined to make our presentation at the chosen hour. 

It was not for the women of our time, but for the daughters of 1976. So they would know that their mothers of 1876 had impeached the government for its treatment of women. 

So 1876. This is what she’s doing in Philadelphia. She was the president of the national, she stepped down. And so Stanton could be the president during this centennial year. Stanton, Gage and Anthony are exchanging leadership positions in the National Women’s Suffrage Association. They are, as Tom said earlier, the triumvirate of the national two of them. 

We know Gage were getting to know 1876. 

I’ll tell you one other thing that happened. That was the Philadelphia the. It’s like a world’s fair. You know, there’s a great big fair going on in Philadelphia that year. And there was a very controversial thing that was happening, which was that they were having a Sunday opening. One of the major battles against organized religion in the 19th century was whether or not Sunday would be in a day of enforced rest. Well, working people were working six day weeks then or sixth day of the week. And Sunday was the only time they had to go to museums or to do anything, you know, recreational. So the decision was, we will open the fair. Matilda, Jocelyn Gage writes to her son and says, bring my revolver. I anticipate violence on the first Sunday that the fair is open. Is a woman who’s armed and ready to protect herself against the religious right. 

Do you love her yet? 

I’m going to turn you in to gauge converts before I leave this stage. Did. So we leave the women’s rights room up and we go into the next room, which is this parlor that’s been restored to look like it did when her son in law took a photo of it in 1887. Let me tell you about her son in law. Her daughter is going to Cornell. Women are just starting to be allowed to enter the hallowed halls of Cornell and Gage, I think had something to do with that, with her friend, Samuel J. Made it talk to Andrew D. White. He was a friend. They I don’t know how much Gage had impact on that, but Cornell is an open women. Her daughter’s going. This is her pride and joy. You know, you never have a favorite. Oh, yeah. This was her favorite. And she was sort of the pet of the family. The unexpected child comes along quite a bit after the others. Mm hmm. 

This is Maude. Maude is not only going to finish up at Cornell, she’s then going on to law school. Well, her mother has a real interest in law. 

In fact, Anthony said about age that she had the most brilliant legal mind of any woman she’d ever known. And Gage had no legal education. 

She basically was a self educated woman. Here’s her daughter, her favorite, going to live out her dream. 

She couldn’t go to college when she was, you know, at the age when she should up. So it was not a college or university open to women when she was a child or African-Americans. 

So here’s her daughter living out. Her dream daughter comes home in her sophomore year, the end of the year, and says, I’m getting married. You win. Your mother’s right. What’s your reaction? This can be. Oh, yes. Do you have a good. Well, understand that there. That meant the end of MoD’s career. That meant the end of her education. That meant the end of her being able to have any sort of occupation outside of housewife. OK, well, Matilda goes through the roof. Not only is she dropping out of school. 

No. She’s marrying this guy who’s like he’s a sort of a privileged, pampered, rich kid. His dad made his fortune in the oil fields in Pennsylvania and whatever Frank wants. His dad gives him, including he wanted to be an actor. So his dad gets him a theater play. He’s traveling. He’s an itinerant actor. This is a guy who’s gonna support a family. I don’t think so. Matilda didn’t think so. She went through the roof. No daughter of mine will marry, you know, 10 or an actor. Maude, the same level of voice says, well, then, mother, you won’t be seeing much of us because will a lope. 

The guy is sitting in the parlor. He hears every word, the front door is right there. Zip. He could be out the door. No, he stays. And the next thing he hears. After these two women are just cracking up because of Morde in that fiery, I look at her mom. 

Her mother sees the seed that she’s planted of independence in this daughter, and she knows that what’s going to do exactly what she wants to do. There’s nothing she’s going to be able to do about that. And she looks at her and she says, yeah, OK, this is good. They open the door. Welcome, Frank, into the family. He goes bankrupt three times. 

Finally, finally. And the moral of this story is listen to your mother in law. She says to him, you know what those stories they use? Tell my grandsons. They had four sons. They’re wonderful stories. There’s a market for those. Publish them. Two years after her death, Elfrink Bond published the wonderful Wizard of Oz. That was the son in law. Now, how many of you have read all 14 of the Oz books? 

Huh? 

If I had a poster, you’d have it 14 oz books, huh? They are visions of social justice. Matilda is her is his intellectual mentor. Really? And guess what? There are no churches in Oz. There is one a spire that you see in one of the 14 books, and that’s it. L. Frank Bohm and Maud Gage Bombs Sons went to the ethical school. They did not go to church and in Oz. There is a very strong moral system. People give what they can and get what they need. Which is part of the reason that the books were banned during the McCarthy era. The other reason is the reason that the religious right is now banning the Harry Potter books because there are witches, because they are books of the devil. And the reason that many of us never read all the 14 Oz books is because the generation before the McCarthy era, before the 1950s, before God got put in the Pledge of Allegiance, before that they were given every Christmas to kids, one a year, one a year, and they were just traditional Christmas gifts and bingo 1950s. The books went out of the libraries. And we’ve lost them pretty much today. They’re worth a read. They are worth a read for free thinkers. Let me tell you. Would you agree? 

OK, we have a testimonial here, folks. You heard it. Yes. Read. 

OK, we’re out of the Osram and we’ve moved into the Underground Railroad room now, 1850. The government passed the Fugitive Slave Act. That meant that there was no safety for any African-Americans on United States soil. None. I could come up to you and say, I’m white. You’re African-American, you are my slave. You’re a drag before a commissioner. The commissioner is paid five dollars. If he finds that you are not my fugitive slave, he’s paid ten dollars. If he finds that you are legalized bribery, abolitionist called it, you can’t testify. Neither can any affer African-Americans testify in your defense. 

No one was safe who was an African-American in the United States. And the way this is going to be enforced and this is federal law does not state law. A lot of the states had passed laws that made slavery not possible. But now comes the federal law, which overrides all of those. So all of these states that said, you know, you’re safe if you’re here no longer operative. And let’s say that I am a marshal and I’m trying to apprehend someone that I have decided is a fugitive slave boy. And if this sounds like the headlines in the papers today, it’s frightening. I decide that you are a fugitive slave. I can deputize you, you, you, you and I can say you are going to help me apprehend this person. You refuse six months in prison. Thousand dollar fine. Twenty three thousand dollars in today’s money. You’re coming with me. Anyone who assists. So if you open your home, it’s a thousand dollars for every person, every freedom taker that you give sanctuary to five people. 

What do you think a middle class family like the Gaige family is gonna be able to sustain? It wasn’t for a movement. There’s no way anybody could have offered. 

So Matilda, Jocelyn Gage says in print, it was one of the proudest acts of my life. 

When Germaine Logan, who was the head of the Underground Railroad in Syracuse, came to our village to see if anyone would offer protection. 

Only two of us did. Now, she not only did that, she signed a petition publicly saying sort of in your face, government, this is a safe home. In 1862, she was asked by the women of Fayetteville to do the flag presentation speech when the hundred and twenty second regiment from Fayetteville went off to war. This was at a time when Lincoln was saying that the war has nothing to do with slavery. The war is being fought to preserve the union. Gage said, no, you are risking your life for something much greater than that. 

You are fighting for liberty. 

And she said there will be no permanent peace until there is absolute equality for everyone. 

Black and white, rich and poor. Men and women. Native born and immigrant. 

We have heard part one of Sally Roche Wagner’s presentation, Matilda Jocelyn Gaige, bringing her into history from the Ingersol Conference held at Amherst, New York, in August of 2014. 

The original recording was engineered by Monica Harmsen. The music was by Adam Fields. Postproduction was by Inquiry Media Productions. 

This has been episode hundred forty Visit US Again on center stage. 

Center Stage is a production of the Center for Inquiry, a nonprofit organization that seeks to foster a secular society based on science reason. Freedom of inquiry and humanist values. 

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Visit our facilities and events. And Amherst, New York. Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and other cities. Join us next time on center stage.