HAUDENOSAUNEE WOMEN’S INFLUENCE ON THE WOMEN’S RIGHTS MOVEMENT
In Haudenosaunee Confederacy societies, women have always had a central role in governance and culture. In affirmation of the role of women in Haudenosaunee Confederacy celebrates the 100th anniversary of U.S. women gaining the right to vote. In order to appreciate women’s suffrage in the United States one must remember the fact that women of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy have exercised political voice in this land for 1,000 years. These Indigenous women were the model for early suffragists like Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Joslyn Gage. In the mid-1800s, women of the United States were considered “dead in the law” after they married, which meant they had no rights and were under the control of their husbands. They looked at their Indigenous sisters, with whom they had formed friendships, and saw another society, one in which women and men were equals. Women were able to choose their political representatives, while having responsibility for the economy, land, and spiritual ceremonies. Haudenosaunee women also had the right to remove a leader if they were not fulfilling their duties and obligations. This model became the impetus for American women to demand equality under the law and the right to vote.
While serving as President of the National Woman Suffrage Association eighteen years earlier, Matilda Joslyn Gage had published a series of articles on the Iroquois in The New York Evening Post. Introducing the series, the Post editor wrote, “Mrs. Gage, with an exhibition of ardent devotion to the cause of woman’s rights … gives prominence to the fact that … the power and importance of women were recognized by the allied tribes.”
The division of power between the sexes in this Indian republic was nearly equal. ~ Matilda Joslyn Gage.
In matters of government, “…its women exercised controlling power in peace and war … no sale of lands was valid without consent” of the women, while “the family relation among the Iroquois demonstrated woman’s superiority in power … in the home, the wife was absolute … if the Iroquois husband and wife separated, the wife took with her all the property she had brought … the children also accompanied the mother, whose right to them was recognized as supreme.” “Never was justice more perfect, never civilization higher,” Gage concluded.