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NY Suffragists were Inspired by Native American Culture

In the 1840s, when most women in the U.S. were considered the property of their husbands and courts blocked the use of domestic violence protections, early suffrage leaders, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Jocelyn Gage, saw that their neighbors, members of the Haudeosaunee indigenous people, had rights for women against assault and rape which were unknown in the white world. These women also worked in the fields, managed community resources and shared government responsibility with their men, while women in white society were wearing binding corsets and pounds of petticoats.

In this indigenous society, everything from property rights to child custody to family lineage passed through the generations via the women, who had full rights to divorce their husbands and were not considered legal possessions, while white women were considered “nameless, purseless and childless.” In the Haudenosaunee Nation, male chiefs were chosen by clan mothers, who required that the men not be “thieves, murderers or sexual assailants,” while “American” women had no say in their government at all.

These early feminists were inspired by the Haudeosaunee society, and brought the knowledge that there can be a different relationship between the sexes to the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, which happened to be located on Haudenosaunee land. The Seneca Falls Convention was the meeting that led to the Constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Source: Betty Lyons & Sally Roesch Wagner, NY Daily News, April 2018

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