Gage, Frances D. (1808–1884)

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Gage, Frances D. (1808–1884)

American reformer and author. Name variations: (pseudonym) Aunt Fanny. Born Frances Dana Barker on October 12, 1808, in Marietta, Washington County, Ohio; died in Greenwich, Connecticut, on November 10, 1884; daughter of Joseph Barker (a farmer and cooper) and Elizabeth (Dana) Barker; married James L. Gage (a lawyer), on January 1, 1829; children: eight, including Mary Gage .

Frances D. Gage was born Frances Barker in 1808 in Marietta, a town on the Muskingum River in Ohio. She was the daughter of Joseph Barker, a farmer and native of New Hampshire, and Elizabeth Dana Barker , who was related to the Danas of Massachusetts. Frances attended a log-cabin school in the Ohio woods and assisted her father in barrel-making.

At age 20, she married James L. Gage, a lawyer from McConnellsville, Ohio. The couple had eight children, yet Gage still found time to write for leading journals and speak to gatherings about women's rights, temperance, and the evils of slavery. In return, she was subjected to ridicule and persecution. "Those who have never advocated an unpopular idea—who have not made principle, rather than policy, their guiding star—cannot appreciate the peculiar trials of those who are true in word and action," she wrote.

In 1851, while attending a Woman's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, Gage was chosen to be president of the meeting. In 1853, the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, then a slave-holding state. Branded an abolitionist, she and her family endured threats and three disastrous fires on their property, probably started by arsonists, that effectively reduced the family's resources.

With her husband ill, Gage took the post of assistant editor of an agricultural paper in Columbus, Ohio. Soon after, however, the Civil War began, destroying the newspaper's circulation. When four of her sons joined the army, Gage, along with her daughter Mary, began to minister to needs of soldiers and freedmen, while speaking to Soldiers' Aid Societies. In summers, Frances was an unsalaried agent of the Sanitary Commission, covering territory down the Mississippi to Memphis, Vicksburg, and Natchez. During this period, she was crippled in a carriage accident in Galesburg, Illinois, and laid up for one year. In August 1867, she suffered paralysis brought on by a stroke and was confined to her room, but she continued writing and became well known for her children's stories, written under the name "Aunt Fanny."