home what'snew resources ask amy news activism antiviolence events marketplace aboutus
 


 
G I R L S A&A Y O U N GA W O M E N

The Roles of Iroquois Women in the Iroquois Tribe
by Jazmin Kay

< back to Girls' Issues main page

Introduction written by Jazmin Kay: This was originally written as a report for my fourth grade class. In my previous reports I have focused on women because of all the interesting things they have experienced and accomplished throughout history, which there hasn't been a lot written about. Doing reports focusing on women's roles in history makes me feel good to be able to teach my class about women. I already know some things about women's history from my mom.

Last year in third grade I focused on Medieval women as my first report in my class. It was interesting to see how little responsibility and power they had. Most medieval women where stuck with house jobs and nothing else - most of the power was given to men since women were not considered equal and a weird kind of creature since they gave birth. The second report we did in third grade was on Explorers. I chose to focus on a woman and chose a lesser-known woman explorer named Christina Dodwell (you can see the story of that report and the actual report here). I thought that was one of the most interesting reports I did. I had the idea of e-mailing Christina some questions about her life and journeys and she responded. Christina is a really nice person. One day a teenage girl found my report online and brought it into her school and as a result they did a whole unit on Women's History Month! I thought that was great. That's part of why I do this - it makes me feel so good inside to hear that things that I did inspired others. I really enjoyed doing that report. I also really enjoyed doing this report on Iroquois women. I was so, so surprised to find out how much power Iroquois women had and how much power women have lost in the past. Doing this report made me wonder a lot about why women lost their power and still aren't treated equally to men. I also thought it was interesting to find out how the example of Iroquois women having so much power inspired suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to work for women's rights and the right to vote. It was amazing to me and to my class to be reminded that women have only had the right to vote in this country for around 86 years! I would like to keep on doing reports like this on women in the future so I can learn and help teach others about all the things women have gone through and accomplished in history. If you have any writings you would like to share about women's history or women today, I would love to hear from you. - Jazmin


THE ROLES OF IROQUOIS WOMEN
IN THE IROQUOIS TRIBE

By Jazmin Kay

Women have always had an honored place in Iroquois society. In the Iroquois society, women had the power of many things.

In many societies throughout history and around the world, women have not been treated equally and given equal rights to men. However, the Iroquois society has always treated women equally and given them a lot of power and important jobs since their wisdom and skills have always been respected by the Iroquois people.

One of the main things that Iroquois women controlled was choosing the chiefs of clans and removing them if they didn't properly fulfill their jobs. Women voted to decide which men were in the Great Council but could not run themselves. The Iroquois women could start and stop wars. If someone said things that clashed with the Women's Council, they could replace them. If the men wanted to go on a journey that the women did not approve, they would refuse to give them food and supplies.

All of the lineage of the Iroquois tribe went back to one woman and the family name passed through the women's family. Women had the rights to the land they farmed and each clan divided their land plots among the women. Women owned all the normal things of everyday life such as blankets, cooking utensils, farming tools, and so on. All that the men owned were their clothes, weapons, and personal things.

Women had many important jobs in the Iroquois tribe such as planting and harvesting the crops, collecting wild nuts and berries, making clothes, clay pots and baskets, taking care of the homes and the children. And of one of the most important jobs was being a Clan Mother. The Clan Mother was the oldest and/or most respected woman and had all the power over the clan. The Clan Mother could choose and remove the Chief of the clan who was called a "Sachem". The women worked well together and men and women worked well in cooperation together too.

Iroquois women had many more rights than Colonial women. In fact, it took many years for Colonial women to earn some of the rights and power that Iroquois women had. It was the example of Iroquois women that inspired the first suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Matilda Joslyn Gage who worked for women's rights and the right for women to vote. (In the picture above, Elizabeth Cady Stanton is on the left and Susan B. Anthony is on the right). The first women's convention was in Seneca Falls, which takes its name from one of the confederacies and is located in the middle of Iroquois territory.

There's a lot of wisdom we can learn from the Iroquois culture. Not only that they worked in so much harmony together and everybody respected each other's thoughts, they had a lot more respect for women and all of nature. I had a lot of joy learning about such an extremely wonderful culture!

In conclusion, Iroquois women have always had great respect, responsibility and power. Their society is a great example of how men and women can work together.

Written By Jazmin Kay

* * *

My presentation: In my presentation to my class, I had made a poster featuring art and pictures of Iroquois women (including some of the images above) in various roles and jobs. I also talked about The Creation Story, which was a very important story in the Iroquois culture. The Creation Story is a myth but the Iroquois people really believed it happened. There are many versions of The Creation Story but here is the version I used for my report:

The Creation Story

"The Iroquois had their own opinion on creation. They believed that in Sky World, a woman was gathering seeds and berries then a great tree went up and left a hole. The Sky woman fell through the hole and went down where there was no land. She landed in what was only water, where the fishes and the other animals swam. As the woman fell, the swans and the geese that were flying over the water caught her with their wings.

"What are we going to do with the Sky Woman?" the birds asked. "She cannot fly or swim, she needs a place to stand on."

The creatures decided to bring up soil from the bottom of the sea. When they did this, all of them failed except the muskrat that was able to bring up only a bit of mud.

"Where are we going to put it?" they wondered.

"On my back" said the turtle.

Following what the turtle said the animals put the mud on the turtle's back. The mud grew so much that it became the earth. That was when the Sky Woman was put down. She dropped some seeds that she had taken from the Sky World, and the seeds grew into all the plants and trees on the earth."

The picture above is artwork showing Sky Woman on the turtle's back. I thought it was great that the Iroquois culture had a story like this in which a woman creates the Earth.

***

Other writings by Jazmin Kay at Feminist.com:

 

Related articles

home | what's new | resources | ask amy | news | activism | anti-violence
events | marketplace | about us | e-mail us | join our mailing list

©1995-2009 Feminist.com All rights reserved.