American Culture

For Women’s History Month – meet Matilda Gage

I only just discovered one of the most fabulous feminist foremothers ever – Matilda Gage. And if I may be blunt about it, I am pretty fucking pissed off that I am only just discovering her. I am pissed off for two reasons.

One, I found her referenced by the contemporary writer Mary Daly. The degree to which Daly reintroduces ideas set forth by Gage more than a hundred years previously illustrates all too clearly how women are written out of his/story. With each generation, therefore, we are forced to reinvent the damn wheel.

Two, along with my B.A. in social justice issues, I also earned a Women’s Studies concentration. I attended a Jesuit university for the simple reason that it was the only college in the city where my military husband was stationed. As someone close to me pointed out, it is amazing that a Jesuit university had Women’s Studies at all (true enough – the school’s priest president was overtly hostile to our program, as was the priest in charge of student clubs overtly hostile to the Women’s Studies club). Still, I actually thought I was receiving a solid Women’s Studies education where advertised. To be sure, we studied great stuff and I got a hell of a lot from it. We studied things that did question the church from within, such a feminist Christians who advocated for the ordination of women and liberation theology which, while firmly Catholic in nature, had been condemned by the Vatican as heresy and Marxism. Matilda Gage, in her book “Woman, Church, and State” (free PDF here) is by far the most blazing hot criticism and total detailing of Christianity’s brutal oppression of women I’ve ever found. Reading that PDF the last two days, I am learning of horrors and abuses I never learned in history or even in Women’s Studies. I feel betrayed by my beloved Women’s Studies professors – they knew Daly and I am absolutely convinced that as such they had to know Gage. I realize now that never in our studies did we look at any materials that outright questioned the very existence of Christian influence in matters both ecclesiastical and temporal in terms of its mind-blowing brutality towards the female sex, based on the theory of “original sin.” I now think there should be entire courses just covering the witch trials – somehow within a Jesuit-run college, that was pretty well glossed over (yeah, I know – seems obvious in hindsight). Learning the extent of it thanks to Gage, I am beyond outraged. I am now thinking that even my Bachelor’s in social justice issues is hardly worth the paper it’s printed on since nowhere did I learn of the greed, utter immorality, brutalizing influence, and abuses of the Christian church whether Catholic or Protestant. It is clear to me now that no study of social justice is complete without in-depth, honest critique of the church. So I owe $80,000 for this piece of paper, my student loans are in default and they will be until I die and I am only just now reading Gage.

For today, sign me supremely pissed off. Oh, and do go check out Matilda Gage, okay?