Women’s Rights: A Native American Tradition

HNR 360 - Women's Rights: A Native American Tradition

MySlice Info:

Term: Fall 2016
Class #: 13248
Section: M004
Credits: 3

Sally Roesch Wagner

Counts toward:
HNR Soc Sci, Public Presentation, Course Global Non-Euro

Course Time(s):
T TH 12:30 - 1:50 p.m.


Course Description:

This class will explore how the woman’s rights movement took form in the territory of the Haudenosaunee, the six nations of the Iroquois confederacy, where women have always lived with far greater status and authority than in the non-native world. Haudenosaunee women fired the revolutionary vision of early feminists by providing a model of gender balance and harmony at a time when Euro-American women experienced few rights. When the early women’s rights leaders of the 19th century organized to demand their rights, they drew inspiration from Native American women. While white women were the property of their husbands and considered dead in the law, Native women had more authority and status on this continent before Columbus landed than women in the United States have today. Before European contact and forced assimilation, women of the five (later six) nation Iroquois confederacy (the Haudenosaunee) had control of their own bodies, selected and removed the leaders, had the final say in the decision to go to war, and were economically independent. Sexual and physical violation of women and children were rare and dealt with harshly; committing violence against a woman kept a man from becoming a chief in this egalitarian, gender-balanced society. Euro-American women learned and were inspired by the decisive political authority, control of their bodies and property, religious voice, custody of their children, satisfying work, and absence of rape and domestic violence women experienced in Haudenosaunee nations. The thought of the two major suffrage theoreticians, Matilda Joslyn Gage and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was shaped by their involvement with their Indigenous women neighbors in upstate New York. Supporting treaty rights and native sovereignty, Matilda Joslyn Gage was given an honorary adoption into the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk Nation. In addition to political, economic, spiritual and social practices, the class will also explore the Haudenosaunee influence on the birthing practices, medicine, food and clothing of Euro-Americans. The class will include trips to the Onondaga Nation; the Skä•noñh Center; Ganondagan State Historic Site and the Onondaga Historical Society. Guests will be representatives from Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON); the Two Row Wampum project; the Onondaga Land Rights Action attorney’s office and the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force. Counts toward the Critical Reflections requirement in the Arts & Sciences Liberal Arts core.


Meets with NAT 300 M001 and WGS 300 M002.