Matilda Joslyn Gage, Rad­i­cal Suf­frag­ist

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Political And Social Science -

An­gel­ica Shirley Car­pen­ter, South Dakota His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety Press (SEPTEM­BER) Hard­cover $19.95 (272pp) 978-1-941813-18-8

An­gel­ica Shirley Car­pen­ter’s Born Crim­i­nal skill­fully fills in the history of an ac­tivist erased from history.

While nine­teenth-cen­tury women’s suf­frage move­ments of­ten saw elite white women fight­ing for their rights and no one else’s, key mem­bers of the move­ment were fairly in­ter­sec­tional. Matilda Joslyn Gage, the sub­ject of Born Crim­i­nal, was one such leader.

Gage grew up in a stop on the Un­der­ground Rail­road, com­ing into con­tact with slaves, abo­li­tion­ists, and rad­i­cals from a young age. This ex­pe­ri­ence shaped her, and al­lowed her to de­velop a more in­clu­sive world­view than some of her con­tem­po­raries. Susan B. An­thony, whom history cred­its for be­ing a pi­o­neer of women’s rights, had no­to­ri­ously racist and clas­sist views; Gage, who is barely rec­og­nized in text­books and other non­fic­tion ma­te­rial, pushed for the rights of all women.

Born Crim­i­nal tracks Gage’s life from child­hood to death, il­lu­mi­nat­ing the in­cred­i­ble work she did. This in­cludes writ­ing sem­i­nal texts on women’s rights, lead­ing con­ven­tions, and head­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions. Meant for readers of many ages, the book de­vel­ops a tan­gi­ble por­trait of the 1800s, of women’s roles dur­ing that time, and of Gage her­self. Pho­to­graphs and il­lus­tra­tions add to the re­al­iza­tion of the hero­ine and her time. Some nu­ance is lost in blan­ket claims, such as that women gained the right to vote in 1920, although that right was not yet se­cured for women of color.

Car­pen­ter’s book is a strong re­minder that history is writ­ten by the vic­tors. Born Crim­i­nal is an in­spi­ra­tional por­trait of a woman who never gave up the fight for equal­ity; her mes­sage could not be more timely or more nec­es­sary.

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