Today I had an extraordinary encounter with a foremother, an ancestor who stood firm in her vision during the years when deals were being struck and friendships betrayed.
I was first attracted by Sally Roesch Wagner’s book Sisters in Spirit that documents how the Iroquois clanmothers made a terrific impact with their matrilineal way of life on our feminist foremothers from European stock. Her findings allowed my characters to move forward with what seemed the obvious outcome of their contact with each other: a high regard for the matrilineal way of life.
Sally’s work must be acknowledged for her contribution to my thinking, in my next novel Linen Shroud, book two of the Textile Trilogy (where the impact of her research comes into play more,) here, on my website, and in all arenas where I present matrilineality as a possible return to an earlier way of life that may have been widespread on many continents and in many cultures, if the archaeological evidence is to be credited.
Sally was given the gift of directing the Matilda Jocelyn Gage Foundation, to re-introduce a woman who held the line for women’s rights so consistently throughout her visionary life, seeing women’s rights as a cornerstone which could hold a whole house aloft, a house that connects religious freedom, our ability of imagine a parallel world (she was the mother in law and muse of Frank Baum, creator of the Oz world,) the slavery that all of us are afflicted with even today (she was the first to refer to sex trafficking e.g.,) the influence of the Haudenausanee–paradigm in our time of a matrilineal culture that has held its identity continuously–and reproductive rights.
Who has heard her name? When Anthony and Stanton struck a deal with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, narrowing the focus on getting the vote, and away from women’s rights, Matilda Jocelyn Gage was struck from the historical record of feminism. The break came on the issue of religious freedom. Today we are in the grip of the tyranny of religious fundamentalism.
A new lightning rod, a mecca for women’s rights is springing up–not in Seneca Falls–but in Fayetteville, adjacent to the Onondaga and the Erie Canal.