Born Criminal

Matilda Joslyn Gage, Radical Suffragist

Born Criminal


$19.95, Hardback
ISBN: 978-1-941813-18-8

“All the crimes which I was not guilty of rushed through my mind. I failed to remember that I was a born criminal—a woman.”—Matilda Joslyn Gage

Before 1920, most women in the United States could not vote. They had no voice in who created the laws or who set their taxes, and they were arrested when they did attempt to cast their ballots. In this country, women had the same political rights as criminals, but the only crime they committed was being born female. For this reason, many women fought for suffrage—the right to vote. Born Criminal is about one of the many important people in the early suffrage movement, but you may not have heard of her. She was nearly erased from history.

Her name is Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826–1898), and she believed in liberty for all. Together with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. She spoke to thousands of people, including presidents and congressmen, about women’s right to vote.

Growing up in a home on the Underground Railroad, Matilda’s early introduction to the movement to abolish slavery made her value all peoples. At the age of twenty-six, Matilda spoke at her first suffrage convention in Syracuse, New York, where over two thousand people packed the city hall. When three of her grown children moved to Dakota Territory, Matilda took the suffrage cause west, traveling from town to town on the frontier, promoting her ideals. At the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in 1886, she even helped stage a protest. She argued that a woman could not represent liberty in a country where women were not guaranteed the right to vote.

Matilda’s ideas were not always popular. Some suffragists saw her stance on religion and politics as too radical. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony both outlived Matilda Gage and eliminated her from their own histories of the women’s movement. By the time the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States’ Constitution granted women nationwide the right to vote, Matilda Gage was all but forgotten—until now.

In Born Criminal, Angelica Shirley Carpenter details Matilda’s life and recounts her contributions to the woman suffrage movement.

Share your stories of radical and overlooked women by using the hashtags #radicalwomen, #matildaeffect, and #borncriminal, on social media. 

Click here to listen to "In the Moment" host Lori Walsh speak with Angelica Shirley Carpenter talk about Matilda Joslyn Gage and her latest book.

About the Author