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Frances Dana Barker Gage
What would you do if your father told you, “What a pity you were not born a boy so that you could be good for something?”
Frances Dana Barker Gage harnessed it to demand equal rights for women.
Gage believed in the US Bill of Rights' promise of individual liberties. She was a fierce abolitionist as well, before, during, and after the Civil War. She gave her entire life, from the very first escaping slave she assisted as a girl, to agitating for the rights of those people her country's white founding fathers conveniently forgot, including herself.
On 6 October 1853, Gage joined 1,500 people in Cleveland, Ohio to propel forward the fight for women's rights. It was the National Women's Rights Convention and Frances Dana Barker Gage was its president. She was accompanied by the most famous suffragettes of the day: Lucretia Mott, Martha Coffin Wright, and Amy Post.
Together, they led the throng in issuing The Declaration of Women's Rights. Built on the foundation of a similar gathering that took place five years before, in 1848, in Seneca Falls, NY, the Declaration called for women's right to vote, inherit land, act as equal guardians to their children, divorce abusive men, and sit on juries.
The roots of Gage's activism preceded the 1853 convention by decades. For years, she'd leveraged her position as an associate newspaper editor to speak out about and lobby for equal rights, not just for women, but for blacks as well. She spent thirteen months as the unpaid superintendent for a camp of 500 freed slaves during the Civil War. She strongly supported the 15th Amendment of the US Constitution, which gave rights to black men. During the Women’s Rights Convention two years before, in 1851, she was responsible for inviting Sojourner Truth to address the crowd, underscoring her deep commitment to rights not just for white women, but for all women.
The 1853 Declaration of Women's Rights was never adopted, unfortunately. But it did shine a bright light on a cause that affected the entire nation, and would contribute greatly to the passing the 1861 law that granted limited property rights to women.
Gage continued to fight the good fight right until her death in 1867. She wrote articles, poems, novels, and even children's books to address the dual issues of sexism and racism in America.
Frances Dana Barker Gage, who we discovered only upon researching the 1853 anniversary of National Women's Rights Convention, spent her life fighting tirelessly for the rights of all women. That's why she's a Time Traveler Tours #HistoryHero.