Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Freethinking Judge Thomas Hertell of the New York legislature was the first to introduce legislation to protect the property rights of women. Ardent atheist Ernestine L. Rose, a Polish immigrant, became the first to lobby for passage of the Married Woman’s Property Act, as well as becoming the first canvasser for women’s rights. Like Wollstonecraft and Wright, Rose was an object of vituperation, libeled by clergy as “a thousand times lower than a prostitute.” Fledgling freethinker Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who had been the first to call for women’s suffrage, took the lead in calling for marriage and divorce reform, becoming the Bible’s sharpest critic by the time she penned the Woman’s Bible nearly 50 years later. “My heart’s desire is to lift women out of all these dangerous, degrading superstitions, and to this end will labor my remaining days on earth,” she wrote in 1896. Stanton’s “coadjutant,” Susan B. Anthony, was an agnostic, and their feminist partner, Matilda Joslyn Gage, author of the influential Women, Church and State (1893), was a freethinker who in 1890 formed the first national feminist organization to work for the separation of church and state.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, “Why Women Need Freedom From Religion,” in Everything You Know Is Wrong, edited by Russ Kick (170)

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