The Untold Story of the Iroquois Influence on Early Feminists
Sally Roesch Wagner
Wah-Ta-Waso, Iroquois woman. Photograph by Frank A. Rinehart, 1898. Part of the Rinehart Indian Photographs collection, Haskell Indian Nations University. Source: LJWorld.com - Photogalleries
Among the rights which women held among the Native American tribes:
- Children belonged to the mother's tribe, not the father's tribe.
- If a marriage proves to be an unhappy one, each person is at liberty to divorce and to marry again. What each person brought into the marriage, each person takes out of the marriage. Women get custody of children.
- When a man brought the products of the hunt home and gave it to his wife, it was hers to dispose of as she saw fit. Her decisions were absolute, even to the sale of skins.
- A woman retains control of her possessions at all times, even after marriage. They are hers to sell, give away, or bequeath as she sees fit. Her husband, father, brothers, and sons have no claim on her property.
- Women ruled the house and stores were held in common.
- Rape and wife-battering were almost unknown.
- Women had the right to vote.
- Treaties had to be ratified by 3/4 of all voters and 3/4 of all mothers.
- Women had the power to impeach a chief (they "removed his horns," the deer's antlers he wore which signified his position.)
- Women spoke in council meetings and were listened to respectfully.
- Women could forbid braves from going to war.
Emphasizing the difference between white Christian culture and Native American traditions, Wagner writes,
"Again, the situation was very different for, as Alice Fletcher explained: . . . the wife never becomes entirely under the control of her husband. Her kindred have a prior right, and can use that right to separate her from him or to protect her from him, should he maltreat her. The brother who would not rally to the help of his sister would become a by-word among his clan. Not only will he protect her at the risk of his life from insult and injury, but he will seek help for her when she is sick and suffering. . . "
As it appears on the Matilda Joslyn Gage Website
HT to Adele Hebert