As we enter an election year with full female participation—in terms of both candidates and electorate—it’s hard to imagine what the United States was like before the 19th Amendment secured women the right to vote. Author Angelica Shirley Carpenter will bring it to life, through her newest book, Born Criminal: Matilda Joslyn Gage, Radical Suffragist, at the Tuesday, January 21, 2020, joint meeting of the League of Women Voters of Tulare County and the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Visalia-Sequoia Branch.
The year 1920 ushered in that sea change, but it had taken 70 years of constant advocacy to make it happen. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Carrie Chapman Catt are well known (Anthony and Catt even spoke to a packed house in Visalia in 1896!), but the other great organizer, Gage, was written out of history. Unlike Anthony and Stanton, she believed in equal rights for all, regardless of race or class.
When Anthony was arrested for voting in the 1872 presidential election, Gage was the most prominent voice in her support. “Is it a crime for a citizen of the United States to vote?” she asked. “The United States is on trial; not Susan B. Anthony.” She was so effective that the trail had to moved, on the grounds that the (all male) jury pool had been tainted.
Carpenter’s introduction to this intriguing piece of hidden history was an unlikely adventure. As a librarian specializing in young adult literature, and founding curator of Fresno State’s Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, she was making an in-depth study of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, when she discovered that the mother-in-law of author L. Frank Baum had been a leading suffragist. In fact, she inspired the strong American heroine, Dorothy, at the center of this beloved story. But why had Carpenter never heard of Matilda Gage? This question led her to peek behind the curtain. Born Criminal was published a year ago by the South Dakota Historical Society Press.
Carpenter has also authored four other biographies: L. Frank Baum, Robert Louis Stevenson, Lewis Carroll and Frances Hodgson Burnett; and edited a scholarly anthology, In the Garden: Essays in Honor of Frances Hodgson Burnett. A past president of the International Wizard of Oz Club, she is an advisory board member for the Lewis Carroll Society of North America and a member of the Authors Guild and the American Library Association, among others. Her website is www.angelicacarpenter.com.
The League and AAUW are non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)(3) educational organizations. The League, celebrating its 100th anniversary in February, is dedicated to encouraging active participation in government, and fostering understanding of public policy. AAUW’s mission is to promote equity for all, and education for women and girls, through fact-based integrity, inclusion and intersectionality.
This event includes lunch, $20, and is open to members and the public on a first-come/first-serve basis. Doors open 11:30am on January 21, at the Marriott Hotel, 300 S. Court St., in Visalia. Reservations must be paid in advance by Tuesday, January 14. Please send checks (made out to “LWVTC”) to LWVTC, P.O. Box 3011, Visalia, CA 93291. Indicate a preference for chicken teriyaki or vegetarian stir-fry with rice. Contact [email protected] with any questions.
Feel free to come dressed in suffragist garb! Books will be available for purchase and signing by the author.