Free Thought Magazine Editorial Contributors, (l-r). Top: B.F. Underwood, Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Thaddeus B. Wakeman. Bottom: Helen H. Gardener, George Jacob Holyoake & Charles B. Waite. Image from Free Thought Magazine, Volume 19, Number 6. (June 1901)
B. F. Underwood
Benjamin Franklin Underwood, born in New York in July 1839, served in the Civil War and was a POW in Richmond for 9 months. He went on to become a lecturer, debater, and writer in the cause of Rationalism. He published several works of Freethought, now all very scarce. His sister, Sara A. Underwood, was the author of Heroines of Freethought. As a lecturer, he visited Silverton, Oregon in 1873 to debate the theory of evolution with Christian lecturer Rev. Clark Braden, D.D. This event was later recounted in cartoonist Homer Davenport’s autobiography The Country Boy.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902) was an American suffragist, social activist, abolitionist, and leading figure of the early women’s rights movement. Her Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the Seneca Falls Convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, is often credited with initiating the first organized women’s rights and women’s suffrage movements in the United States. Stanton was president of the National Woman Suffrage Association from 1892 until 1900.
Before Stanton narrowed her political focus almost exclusively to women’s rights, she was an active abolitionist with her husband, Henry Brewster Stanton and cousin, Gerrit Smith. Unlike many of those involved in the women’s rights movement, Stanton addressed various issues pertaining to women beyond voting rights. Her concerns included women’s parental and custody rights, property rights, employment and income rights, divorce, the economic health of the family, and birth control. She was also an outspoken supporter of the 19th-century temperance movement.
She is joined by Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott in a “Portrait Monument,” a 7.5 ton statute honoring these Founding Mothers. The white marble monument, that once gathered dust in the basement of the U.S. Capitol and now stands proudly in the rotunda.
T. B. Wakeman
Thaddeus Burr Wakeman (1834–1913), was born and raised in Greenfield Hill, Fairfield County, Connecticut. His parents were of old and honored New England stock. His childhood was passed amid the surroundings of farm life.
The “Evidences of Christianity” was one of the departments in which he stood number one. Afterwards, to the surprise and grief of his family and friends, he declared that he could no longer believe as his fathers bad done and could not, therefore, consistently enter the ministry. He turned to the law, and was admitted to the bar in 1856.
In politics he was originally antislavery. He joined the Republican party, but after the war he followed Horace Greeley as a Liberal Republican. He is now in favor of an Independent Liberal party. He has been active and well known in Freethought movements in New York since 1868, and his usefulness and reputation have extended over the whole country. Around the turn of the Twentieth Century, he assumed the Presidency of Liberal University of Oregon at Silverton, and held that position until LUO folded several years later.
Helen H. Gardener
Helen Hamilton Gardener (1853–1925), born Alice Chenoweth, was an American author, rationalist public intellectual, political activist, and government functionary. Gardener produced many lectures, articles, and books during the 1880s and 1890s and is remembered today for her role in the freethought and women’s suffrage movements and for her place as a pioneering female in the top echelon of the American civil service.
During her first years in New York City Chenoweth-Smart made the acquaintance of Robert G. Ingersoll, the leading rationalist orator of the day. At Ingersoll’s persistent request in January 1884 Alice Chenoweth-Smart began herself to deliver a series of public lectures, talks dealing with such skeptical themes as “Men, Women, and Gods,” “Historical Facts and Theological Fictions,” “By Divine Right,” and “Rome or Reason.” Many of these were collected into her first book, Men, Women, and Gods, and Other Lectures, which was issued in hard covers by the radical freethought publication, The Truth Seeker. Chenoweth-Smart published this book under the pen name “Helen Hamilton Gardener” — a pseudonym which she would use professionally for the rest of her life, eventually adopting this as her own legal name.
George Jacob Holyoake
George Jacob Holyoake (1817–1906), was a British secularist, co-operator, and newspaper editor. He coined the term “secularism” in 1851 and the term “jingoism” in 1878. He edited a Secularist paper, the Reasoner, from 1846 to June 1861, and a Co-operative paper, The English Leader, from 1864-67. In 1842, Holyoake became the last person convicted for blasphemy in a public lecture, held in April 1842 at the Cheltenham Mechanics’ Institute, though this had no theological character and the incriminating words were merely a reply to a question addressed to him from the body of the meeting.
In 1842 Holyoake and socialist Emma Martin formed the Anti-Persecution Union to support free thinkers in danger of arrest. Holyoake retained his disbelief in God, but after the Oracle soon came to regard “atheism” as a negative word – hence his preference for “secularism.” Holyoake adopted the word “agnostic” when that became available.
C. B. Waite
Judge Charles B. Waite was born in Wayne county, New York, in 1824, his father being Daniel D. Waite, an eminent physician, and his mother Lucy Clapp, the daughter of Israel Clapp, one of the first settlers of Cayuga County. About the year 1825, Dr. Waite removed, with his family, to Cayuga County, where he spent his boyhood and his early youth. He was a zealous abolitionist, and though there were then but a handful of antislavery people in the country, he established and published an antislavery newspaper called “The Liberty Banner.” In 1847 Mr. Waite was admitted to the bar, and soon afterward entered into a practice which was large and lucrative.
He has given much thought to questions of constitutional law, and some of his articles on such subjects, published in the “Law Times,” have received the approval and commendation of our ablest jurists. He has strongly and vigorously opposed nearly all of the late projects for amending the federal Constitution, particularly the religious amendment proposed by Senator Blair. This he denounced as a direct step toward the union of church and state.
Judge Waite has a record of which anyone might be proud. His life has been devoted to the cause of liberty—to the emancipation of the human race from physical and intellectual bondage. He is now president of the American Secular Union.