History Religion

Woman, Church & State: The Original Exposé of Male Collaboration Against the Female Sex

Woman, Church & State: The Original Exposé of Male Collaboration Against the Female SexMatilsa Joslyn GagePersephone Press1980 (1893)

The original 1893 manuscript can be read for free here.

Woman, Church & State by Matilda Joslyn Gage was originally published in 1893 and then re-published by the feminist press Persephone nearly a century later with a foreword by Mary Daly in 1980. In doing so, Persephone made a case for the ongoing relevancy of women’s work of the past which has the potential of bridging intergenerational ruptures so that new waves of feminists don’t have to re-learn everything from scratch.

This classic history of woman’s oppression is one of the first attempts to document the sad legacy of injustice and discrimination against women, which is unfortunately inseparable from the history of both Christianity and the evolution of the Western state. Beginning in the pre-Christian era, where she finds more evidence of freedom for women than in subsequent eras, pioneering women’s rights advocate Matilda Joslyn Gage traces the patterns of male domination in both church and state that kept women in virtual bondage.

Among the topics of her research is the medieval exaltation of celibacy as an expression of the male belief that women were unclean and the cause of original sin, the gross discrimination against women in canon law, abuse of women in the feudal system, the persecution of women as witches, the virtual slave status of wives and their almost total legal subjugation to their husbands, toleration of polygamy, the debilitating drudgery of woman’s daily work, and the widespread opposition to women’s education by both church and state. Perhaps the most farseeing and radical of the early feminists, Gage had the vision to realize that society’s fundamental institutions had to be drastically reformed before women would begin to enjoy equal rights. Many of her concerns sound very modern: she deplored the unequal treatment of the prostitute vs. her client, the practice of non-conviction or of pardoning in rape trials, unequal pay, wife battering, the sexual abuse of female children, and many other abuses that only today are being seriously addressed. 

Finally, at this time, when the creative rage of Revolting Hags is surfacing, when our network is expanding, when Spooking, Sparking, and Spinning are intensifying, when more and more women are understanding that this is the age of ultimate warfare between principalities and powers, when nuclear holocaust can be seen as the logical and technological embodiment of christian doctrine, those women who intend to survive are very close in spirit to Matilda Joslyn Gage. It is good that in 1980 Persephone Press is bringing out Woman, Church and State.

Foreword by Mary Daly, 1980

From Wikipedia: Matilda Joslyn Gage (March 24, 1826 – March 18, 1898) was a women’s suffragist, Native American rights activist, abolitionist, freethinker, and author. She is the eponym for the Matilda Effect, which describes the tendency to deny women credit for scientific invention.

This Book is Inscribed to the Memory of my Mother, who was at once mother, sister, friend.

Dedicated to all Christian women and men, of whatever creed or name who, bound by Church or State, have not dared to Think for Themselves.

Addressed to all Persons, who, breaking away from custom and the usage of ages, dare seek Truth for the sake of Truth. To all such it will be welcome; to all others aggressive and educational.

Acknowledgements by Matilda Joslyn Gage, 1893
Matilda Joslyn Gage