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Haudenosaunee Women: An Inspiration To Early Feminists
SCW ©2018, Onondaga Nation photograph: Toba Tucker ©1991
In the mid 1800s Haudenosaunee women provided early feminists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton (left), Matilda Joslyn Gage (center) and Lucretia Mott (right) with a living contradiction to the notion that women’s oppression was either natural or divinely ordained.

Download this powerful piece from the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center showing distinctions between the experience of Haudenosaunee Women compared to U.S. Women before the women's rights movement Lives of Women Comparison.

Beyond Women’s Rights
Beyond the ballot... more than a vote in a system driven by control Our mothers saw people in harmony – it stirred a remembering of a time before the laws of church and nation-state. Sovereign women in sovereign nations living beyond fear, beloved not owners, but keepers of the land not property, but sacred centers of creation In a world where everything is a part, connected each valued and responsible to the whole Wiser women of older nations remind us still today that dominance control ownership man-made, can be unmade. Balance comes from honoring life, living in Thanksgiving wise women, living this vision, we thank you.
-Sandy Bigtree, Karen Kerney and Sally Roesch Wagner

The sovereign Onondaga Nation is one of five nations that formed the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) over 1,000 years ago. Confederacy members, once warring nations, founded their union on principles of respect, equity, balance, compassion and thanksgiving. Iroquois women, while portrayed stereotypically as “beasts of burden”, in fact share equally in responsibility and authority in their nations. Descent was and is traced through women, and clan mothers choose and work along with chiefs. In 1893 (Women, Church and State) Matilda Joslyn Gage wrote: “Under Iroquois women the science of government reached the highest form known to the world.” Onondaga Nation women pictured above (left to right): Deer Clan Mother Audrey Shenandoah, Eel Clan; daughters Rochelle Brown and midwife Jessica Jeanne Shenandoah, Eel Clan.

Early feminists Elizabeth Cady Stanton (left oval) and Lucretia Mott (right) organized the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York on July 19, 1848. Entering the movement four years later, Matilda Joslyn Gage (center) joined Stanton as a primary theoretician and writer of the Women’s Rights Movement. From their roots in the patriarchal Euro-American tradition, all three women came to advocate a vision in which respect, independence and authority accrued naturally to women. Contemporary Haudenosaunee women provided these early feminists a living contradiction to the notion that women’s oppression was either natural or divinely ordained.