Frances Dana Gage
By Henry Robert Burke
Frances Dana (Barker) Gage was born in Marietta, Washington County,
Ohio on October 12, 1808. Her father, Colonel Joseph Barker, was a New Englander who came to Marietta with the second
group of settlers in the United States Northwest Territory in 1788. In 1829 Miss Barker married James L. Gage, a young
lawyer from McConnelsville, Morgan County, Ohio. Frances Gage raised eight children, including four sons who served with Union
Forces during the Civil War.
Mrs. Gage was deeply involved with social issues, "Temperance", "Anti-slavery" and "Women's Rights", and the Underground
Railroad, that one must wonder how she managed so many positive accomplishments.
1851, Frances Gage presided over "The Women's Rights Convention", held in Akron, Ohio and her opening speech attracted widespread
attention to the Movement. She invited Sojourner Truth to speak and Frances Gage preserved the words of the famous speech
"Ain’t I A Woman", given at that convention by Sojourner Truth.
In 1853, she moved to St. Louis, Missouri with her husband and family. While there she came under repeated threats of
violence because of her anti-slavery views. Twice she was the target of arsonists. St. Louis, Missouri and Alton, Illinois
are located on the Mississippi River, which was the western extension of the Mason-Dixon Line. Incredible violence over the
slavery issue ensued in that region during the period, beginning with the Missouri Compromise in 1820 and ending with the
close of the Civil War in 1865.
On November 7, 1837, in Alton, Illinois, the famous Anti-Slavery martyr Elijah Parish Lovejoy was shot to death by a
pro-slavery mob while he and others defended a printing press used to print anti-slavery literature. The fact that she carried
on her anti-slavery work in such a dangerous environment attests to the courage of convictions held by Mrs. Gage.
In 1857-58 Mrs. Gage visited Cuba, St. Thomas and Santo Domingo, and on her return to the U.S. she wrote and lectured
about her travels. Mrs. Gage then became the editor for an agricultural newspaper in Ohio. When the Civil War began, she went
south and gave aid to wounded Union soldiers. She also taught freed slaves to read and write, and then, without pay, she acted
as an agent for the Sanitary Commission at Memphis, Vicksburg and Natchez. In 1863-64 she became superintendent of 500 freedmen,
under General Rufus Saxton, at Paris Island, South Carolina.
In an 1865 she was crippled by an overturned carriage in Galesburg, Illinois; still she continued to lecture on until
1867, when she became permanently disabled by a paralytic stroke. Under the pen name of "Aunt Fanny", Mrs. Gage wrote many
stories and verses for children. She was a contributor to the Saturday Review and published the poems: "Elsie Maroon or The
Old Still-House; "Steps Upward"; and "Gertie's Sacrifice."
Frances Dana Gage was one of the 19th century's best-known
women lecturers. Her arguments on women's rights and woman suffrage were logical and well-reasoned. Here's an example of one
of her talks on suffrage.
to the First Anniversary of the American Equal Rights Association (1867)by Frances Dana Gage:
President: It seems to be my fate to come in at the eleventh hour. We have been talking about the right to the ballot. Why
do we want it? What does it confer? What will it give us? We closed our argument at three o'clock to-day by a discussion whether
the women of this country and the colored men of this country wanted the ballot. I said that it was a libel on the womanhood
of this country, to say they do not want it; and I repeat that assertion. Woman may say in public that she does not want it,
because it is unpopular and unfashionable for her to want it; but when you tell her what the ballot can do, she will always
answer you that she wants it. Why do we want it? Because it is right, and because there are wrongs in the community that can
be righted in no other way.
After the discussions we have had to-night, I want to turn to a fresh subject. Last evening I attended the meeting of
the National Temperance Association at Cooper Institute. A great audience was assembled there, to listen to the arguments
against the most gigantic evil that now pervades the American Republic. Men took the position that only a prohibitory law
could put an end to the great evil of intemperance. New York has its two hundred millions of invested capital to sell death
and destruction to the men of this country who are weak enough to purchase. There are eight thousand licensed liquor establishments
in this city, to drag down humanity. It was asserted there by Wendell Phillips that intemperance had its root in our Saxon
blood, that demanded a stimulus; and he argued from that standpoint. If intemperance has its root in the Saxon blood, that
demands a stimulus, why is it that the womanhood of this nation is not at the grog-shops to-day? Are women not Saxons?
It was asserted, both by Mr. Phillips and by President Hopkins, of Union College, that the liquor traffic must be regulated
by law. A man may do what he likes in his own house, said they; he may burn his furniture; he may take poison; he may light
his cigar with his greenbacks; but if he carries his evil outside of his own house, if he increases my taxes, if he makes
it dangerous for me or for my children to walk the streets, then it may be prohibited by law. I was at Harrisburg, a few days
ago, at the State Temperance Convention. Horace Greeley asserted that there was progress upon the subject of temperance; and
he went back to the time when ardent spirits were drank in the household, when every table had its decanter, and the wife,
children and husband drank together. Now, said he, it is a rare thing to find the dram-bottle in the home. It has been put
out. But what put the dram-bottle out of the home? It was put out because the education and refinement and power of woman
became so strong in the home, that she said, "It must go out; we can't have it here." Then the voters of the United States,
the white male citizens, went to work and licensed these nuisances that could not be in the home, at all the corners of the
I demand the ballot for woman to-day, that she may vote down these nuisances, the dram-shops, there also, as she drove
them out of the home. What privilege does the vote give to the "white male citizen" of the United States? Did you ever analyze
a voter-hold him up and see what he was? Shall I give you a picture of him? Not as my friend Parker Pillsbury has drawn the
picture to-night will I draw it. What is the "white male citizen"-the voter in the Republic of the United States? More than
any potentate or any king in all Europe. Louis Napoleon dares not walk the streets of his own city without his bodyguard around
him, with their bayonets. The Czar of Russia is afraid for his own life among his people. Kings and potentates are always
afraid; but the "free white male citizen" of the United States, with the ballot in his hand, goes where he lists, does what
he pleases. He owns himself, his earnings, his genius, his talent, his eloquence, his power, all there is of him. All that
God has given him is his, to do with as he pleases, subject to no power but such laws as have an equal bearing upon every
other man in like circumstances, and responsible to no power but his own conscience and his God. He builds colleges; he lifts
up humanity or he casts it down. He is the lawgiver, the maker, as it were, of the nation. His single vote may turn the destiny
of the whole Republic for good or ill. There is no link in the chain of human possibilities that can add one single power
to the "white male citizen" of America.
Now we ask that you shall put into the hands of every human soul this same power to go forward and do good works wherever
it can. The country has rung within the last few days because one colored girl, with a little black blood in her veins, has
been cast out of the Pittsburg Methodist College. It ought to ring until such a thing shall be impossible. But when Cambridge,
and Yale, and Union, and Lansing, and all the other institutions of the country, West Point included, aided by national patronage,
shut out every woman and every colored man in the land, who has anything to say? There is not a single college instituted
by the original government patronage of lands to public schools and colleges, that allows a woman to set her foot inside of
its walls as a student.
Is this no injustice? Is it no wrong? When men stand upon the public platform and deliver elaborate essays on women
and their right of suffrage, they talk about their weakness, their devotion to fashion and idleness. What else have they given
women to do? Almost every profession in the land is filled by men; every college sends forth the men to fill the highest places.
When the law said that no married woman should do business in her own name, sue or be sued, own property, own herself or her
earnings, what had she to do? That laid the foundation for precisely the state of things you see to-day.
But I deny that, as a class, the women of America, black or white, are idle. We are always busy. What have we done?
Look over this audience, go out upon your streets, go through the world where you will, and every human soul you meet is the
work of woman. She has given it life; she has educated it, whether for good or evil. She it is that must lie at the foundation
of your country, because God gave her the holiest mission ever laid upon the heart of a human soul-the mission of the mother.
We are told that home is woman's sphere. So it is, and man's sphere, too; for I tell you that that is a poor home which
has not in it a man to feel that it is the most sacred place he knows. If duty requires him to go out into the world and flight
its battles, who blames him, or puts a ban upon him? Men complain that woman does not love home now, that she is not satisfied
with her mission. I answer that this discontent arises out of the one fact, that you have attempted to mold seventeen millions
of human souls in one shape, and make them all do one thing. Take away your restrictions, open all doors, leave women at liberty
to go where they will.
As old Sojourner Truth said twenty years ago, at the first Women's Rights Convention in Ohio, "Leave them where God
left them, with their inalienable rights," and they will adjust themselves to their convictions of their duties, their responsibilities,
and their powers, and society will find harmony within itself. The caged bird forgets how to build its nest. The wing of the
eagle is as strong to soar to the sun as that of her mate, who never says to her, "back, feeble one, to your nest, and there
brood in dull inactivity until I give you permission to leave!" But when her duties called her there, who ever found her unfaithful
to her trust? The foot of the wild roe is as strong and swift in the race as that of her antlered companion. She goes by his
side, she feeds in the same pasture, drinks from the same running brook, but is ever true also to her maternal duties and
If we are a nation of imbeciles, if womanhood is weak, it is the laws and customs of society which have made us what
we are. If you want health, strength, energy, force, temperance, purity, honesty, deal justly with the mothers of this country;
then they will give you nobler and stronger men than higgling politicians, or the grogshop emissaries that buy up the votes
of your manhood.
Why is it that Republicans are so weak and wavering to-day? There is a law upon the statute book of every southern State
that the child shall follow the condition of the mother. There is a law in the physical code of humanity, written by the finger
of the Almighty, that never was and never will be repealed, that the child shall follow the condition of the mother. You have
never taught the women of this country the sacredness of freedom. You have never called out the mother to generous action.
You have never said to the motherhood of this country, "Upon you rests the responsibility of making the Republic what it should
be. We invest you with the power; now assume that responsibility and act upon it, or we shall call you to account for your
neglect of duty."
It has been charged upon woman that she does nothing well. What have you given us to do well? What freedom have you
give us to act independently and earnestly? When I was in San Domingo, I found a little colony of American colored people
that went over there in 1825. They retained their American customs, and especially their little American church, outside of
the Catholic, which overspread the whole country. In an obscure room in an old ruin they sung the old hymns, and lived the
old life of the United States. I asked how this thing was, and they answered that among those that went over so long ago were
a few from Chester County, Penn., who were brought up among the Quakers, and had learned to read. Wherever a mother had learned
to read, she had educated all her children so that they could read; but wherever there was a mother that could not read, that
family had lapsed off from the old customs of the past.
Give us education. When we have a right to vote, there will not be a school-door in the United States shut to woman.
When we have the right to vote, I believe that the womanhood that demanded that the dram-bottle should go out of the home,
will demand that the dram-bottle shall be put away from among men. She will say, You have no right to take poison, and make
my home a discomfort, or destroy the greenbacks, which should be the mutual possession of the household, by lighting your
cigar. She will tell the world, under the new regime, that it is not the Saxon blood that demands a stimulant; but in the
new morality it will be as wicked for a man to be drunken as for a woman to be drunken-as disreputable for a man to be licentious
as for a woman to be licentious-as wicked and perverse for a man to go down to the lower depths of iniquity and folly as for
a woman. And the great law uttered upon Sinai amid its thunders, will again be remembered, and will apply as much to man as
to woman. Now, it is not so. One code of morality governs the voter, another the woman. As the slaveholder enacted laws that
made his own vices crimes in the slave, so men enact laws that make their vices crimes in woman. And this is why we want suffrage
I ask the ballot, not because of its individual advantage to myself, but because I know and feel that individual rights,
guaranteed to every citizen, must harmonize the world, if there is any power to do it this side of heaven. And so, not quite
eighty years old, as old Sojourner said she was, but standing upon the brink of threescore, having looked this question in
the face from my girlhood up-having labored in almost every vocation in life that falls to the lot of womanhood, as a worker
on the farm, a worker in the household, a wife, a mother, a seamstress, a cook-and I tell you, my friends, that I can make
better biscuit than I can lectures-as one who has tried to study what is for the best interest of society, I ask you candidly
to survey this subject in all its bearings. Why may we not take our position as human beings enjoying all the privileges which
the Creator bestowed, without restriction other than falls upon every other human being in the community?
A friend of mine, writing from Charleston the other day, just after the ballot went down there, says that he was told
by a colored man, "I met my old master, and he bowed so low to me I didn't hardly know which was the negro and which was the
white man." When we hold the ballot, we shall stand just there. Men will forget to tell us that politics are degrading. They
will bow low, and actually respect the women to whom they now talk platitudes; and silly flatteries, sparkling eyes, rosy
cheeks, pearly teeth, ruby lips, the soft and delicate hands of refinement and beauty, will not be the burden of their song;
but the strength, the power, the energy, the force, the intellect and the nerve, which the womanhood of this country will
bring to bear, and which will infuse itself through all the ranks of society, must make all its men and women wiser and better".
(Mrs. Frances Dana Gage died in Greenwich,
Connecticut on November 10, 1884.)
Sojourner Truth was born in 1797, in a Dutch community in New York. She
was born a slave. Her original name was Isabella Baumfree. In 1808, Truth was sold away from her parents.
She eventually became the property of John Dumont. While Dumont's slave she married a man named Thomas and eventually
gave birth to five children. Dumont promised Truth that she would have her freedom in 1827, but he reneged on his promise.
Truth shortly thereafter ran away, taking only her infant son to freedom.
first went to New York City, where she worked as a domestic servant for several different religious groups. In 1843,
Truth believed that she had received a revelation from God. It was at this point that she changed her name from Baumfree
to Truth. She embarked upon a lecture tour across New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, hoping to educate others
about God's plan for salvation. In her sermons, she condemned slavery and encouraged men to grant women of all races
the same rights as white men.
eventually arrived at Northampton, Massachusetts, where she joined a religious commune known as the Northampton Association
for Education and Industry. Her involvement in abolitionism quickly grew, as she became close friends of Frederick Douglass
and William Lloyd Garrison, people affiliated with the association. She continued to give lectures about her experiences
as a slave woman, and in 1850, she published an account of her life, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave.
Truth is perhaps most famous for a speech she gave at a women's rights convention
in Akron, Ohio, in 1851. Members of the community shouted down other speakers at the meeting. Truth rose from
her seat and silenced the hecklers with a speech titled, “Ain't I a Woman.” The point of this speech was
to illustrate for the participants that fighting for equal rights for women with men was not enough. Other women, including
African Americans, faced additional obstacles. Truth wanted the participants to not only dedicate their lives to ending
sexism but also to assisting all people, no matter what their race or gender was, achieve equality.
the American Civil War, Truth helped gather supplies for African-American units. In 1864, she became a member of the
National Freedman's Relief Association, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of African Americans. Following the
war, Truth continued to lobby the federal government for rights for African Americans. One of her more controversial
proposals involved the federal government giving now free African Americans land in the West. She died in 1883, in Battle
Ohio Historical Society, 2005, "Sojourner Truth",
Ohio History Central: An Online Encyclopedia of Ohio History.
Other Ohio Historical Society Sites
· Ohio History
· Ohio Kids
· Ohio Teachers
· Ohio Pix
· Ohio Memory
Francis Dana Gage’s account of the "Ain’t I a Woman?"
speech given by Sojourner Truth in Akron, Ohio in 1851:
"Wall, chilern, whar dar is so much racket dar must be somethin' out o' kilter. I tink dat 'twixt de niggers of de Souf
and de womin at de Nork, all talkin''bout rights, de white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all dis here talkin''bout?
Dat man ober dar say dat womin needs to be helped into carriages,
and lifted ober ditches, and to hab de best place everywhar. Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober mud-puddles, or
gibs me any best place!" And raising herself to her full height, and her voice to a pitch like rolling thunders, she asked
"And a'n't I a woman? Look at me! Look at me! Look at my arm! (and she bared her right arm to the shoulder, showing her tremendous
muscular power). I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And a'n't I a woman? I could
work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear de lash a well! And a'n't I a woman? I have
borne thirteen chilern, and seen 'em mos' all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus
heard me! And a'n't I a woman?
"Den dey talks 'bout dis ting in de head; what dis dey call it?"
("Intellect," whispered some one near.) "Dat's it, honey. What's dat got to do wid womin's rights or nigger's rights? If my
cup won't hold but a pint, and yourn holds a quart, wouldn't ye be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?" And
she pointed her significant finger, and sent a keen glance at the minister who had made the argument. The cheering was long
"Den dat little man in black dar, he say women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wan't a woman! Whar did
your Christ come from?" Rolling thunder couldn't have stilled that crowd, as did those deep, wonderful tones, as she stood
there with outstretched arms and eyes of fire. Raising her voice still louder, she repeated, "Whar did your Christ come from?
From God and a woman! Man had nothin' to do wid Him." Oh, what a rebuke that was to that little man.
Turning again to another objector, she took up the defense of Mother
Eve. I can not follow her through it all. It was pointed, and witty, and solemn; eliciting at almost every sentence deafening
applause; and she ended by asserting: "If de fust woman God ever made was strong enough to turn de world upside down all alone,
dese women togedder (and she glanced her eye over the platform) ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up
again! And now dey is asking to do it, de men better let 'em." Long-continued cheering greeted this. "Bleeged to ye for hearin'
on me, and now old Sojourner han't got nothin' more to say."
Amid roars of applause, she returned to her corner, leaving more
than one of us with streaming eyes, and hearts beating with gratitude. She had taken us up in her strong arms and carried
us safely over the slough of difficulty turning the whole tide in our favor. I have never in my life seen anything like the
magical influence that subdued the mobbish spirit of the day, and turned the sneers and jeers of an excited crowd into notes
of respect and admiration. Hundreds rushed up to shake hands with her, and congratulate the glorious old mother, and bid her
God-speed on her mission of "testifyin' agin concerning the wickedness of this 'ere people."
Edited by Henry Robert Burke