Gage and Sage
On Saturday, I attended two funerals. Both were held at May Memorial Unitarian-Universalist Church, almost back to back. May Memorial is named after one of the esteemed people that I quote in Quoting Matilda for his strong stance on women’s rights. His name was Dr. Samuel J. May, who was one of the principles who figured prominently in the Jerry Rescue event in Syracuse in the fall of 1851. If you have read my previous blog about this event, you will have learned of one of the very many social justice actions in which he took part. I will write another blog just about him eventually.
Tonight, I want to focus on another longtime attendee of May Memorial, Doris Sage. It is Doris’ memorial service that I attended in the afternoon. Born on August 20, 1929, she died in her home on May 4, 2017.
Doris was a tiny woman and quite frail looking in her last years. But Doris was another crusader for causes of social justice in the spirit of Matilda Joslyn Gage, Rev. Jermain Loguen and Rev. Samuel May.
Doris was a strongly determined woman despite herdiminutive size and demure personality. She married young but went on to get several degrees. For many years she was a special education teacher in the city of Syracuse. She was also renown as a storyteller. She both wrote and told stories. She would often regale us at what for many years was an annual trip to Garnet Hill X-Country Skiing resort. Standing before the huge fireplace with the big moose head displayed upon it, she would spin her tales and entrance us with her voice and words. She was far from what anyone looking at her would perceive as a terrorist. Yet that is, more or less, how our government defined her. You see, Doris didn’t just talk about injusticesshe saw all about her. She protested. She spoke up. She crossed the line—literally. While participating in the annual protest against the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, she, her husband, and several others (including a nun and our pastor Nick Cardell) crossed the barrier line and were arrested.
Doris served a year in Danbury Prison. Her husband Dan was in a different prison that same year. She was in that prison on her and Dan’s 50th wedding anniversary. She was married 66 years to Dr. Daniel D. Sage, a professor in Special Education Administration. He was also a very unlikely candidate to deserve the name terrorist. But, certainly they both believed in civil disobedience for the sake of a cause. Both of them had built up to this strong action through years of local social justice activities and several years of traveling to El Salvador and Columbia to help the downtrodden there. The up-close-and-personal experiences with injustice in Central America led her to become a prisoner of conscience for peace and other social justice causes. The School of the Americas trains military types like Noriega and our tax money is paying to train these real-life terrorists. It is now officially the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC– renamed, supposedly because this longer name would be harder to put on a protest poster). Yes, I said NOW, as in IT IS STILL GOING ON AND PEOPLE STILL GO DOWN EVERY YEAR to protest. Some still get arrested.
Last year saw a bit of progress. In July, 2016, just days before the Democratic Party convention, a Platform Committee meeting in Orlando, Florida, issued a call for the closing of the Institute (School of the Americas) as one of its planks into the Democratic Party’s policy platform. The amendment, which was agreed to by representatives of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, said: “Our support of democracies and civilian governments in the Western Hemisphere includes our belief that their military and police forces should never be involved in the political process, and therefore we will reinstate the 2000 Congressional mandate to close the School of the Americas now known as WHINSEC.”
Matilda Joslyn Gage signed a paper document in Fayetteville, New York. This document stated that she agreed to be imprisoned for the sake of the black man if the underground hideaway in her house, one of only two houses on the Underground Railroad in Fayetteville, New York. If she was ever discovered as being part of the Underground Railroad, she would be jailed and fined. Fortunately for Matilda and her expanding family, this never came to pass.
Matilda was not much different in physical appearance than Doris. Both were white-haired little old ladies in their waning years. Matilda’s health had never been very good. She was just 71 when she died after a stroke. Doris was 88.
Matilda lived out her last days with her daughter Maud and Maud’s husband L. Frank Baum at their home in Chicago. Doris was determined to live in her own home, and she did until the last. She made frequent visits to my daughter, who is a physical therapist, during those last years as a widow. Laura became very fond of this stoop-shouldered octogenarian.
My book contains just one quote from Matilda on the subject of “Age.” I shall end this blog with that quote:
“The beautiful women of my acquaintance over fifty years of age, all belong to the suffrage ranks and they number among them women who would grace the court of any monarch in Europe. They have grown old gracefully—they have accepted the compensation thattime brings with him. Youth they know to be a season of immaturity—an age when the character is forming, a period when there are few settled convictions. It is a season of the future when one possesses little, but hopes for much. Age brings fruition—age has witnessed the growth of the soul, age has formed character, age has brought out the good in them and they have developed the same as thefruit develops out of the bud and the blossom. As much as we admire the bud and the blossom, we love the fruit better.”
—Matilda Joslyn Gage, August 27, 1871, San Francisco Pioneer