The women of the Women’s Rights Movement had to have gotten their ideas from somewhere. They did not simply make up the idea of equality, rather they looked to the local native people for ideas on how society could be. New York State is home to the Haudenosaunee, or more commonly known as the Iroquois. Here the women found a society where men and women were equal.
In the Haudenosaunee culture, the lineage is determined through the mother. Children take on the clan of their mother, unlike the European ways of taking the father’s name. At the time in the United States, if there was a divorce, the man, not the woman, would take control of the children. The native people believed that the children should stay with the mother.
Rape, which was common in the American culture (it was legal for a husband to rape his wife), was a concept unknown to the Haudenosaunee people. If a man were to commit this crime against a woman, he would be forced out of the nation.
The style of dress that many Women’s Rights advocates wore was directly modeled from what the Haudenosaunee women wore.
Haudenosaunee women were responsible for the agriculture of their community. They also had control of their own land. The contrasts greatly to the White society, in which women were not able to hold property once they were married.
What was most astounding to the suffragettes was the political clout that the Haudenosaunee women had. These women held key political offices withing their clan. The women were the ones who picked the chief. All decisions made, were by everyone, not just the men, voting. What a contrast this was from the dominant culture in the United States.
Matilda was enthralled with this culture. She became very close with the Mohawk people. She was adopted into the wolf clan and given the name Ka-ron-ien-ha-wi, or ‘Sky Carrier.’ Matilda wrote many articles for the New York Evening Post about the nations. She described their culture and how equality reigned; how their society was just to all. She brought to light the fact that the U.S. government was based off of the system that the Haudenosaunee have had for centuries, yet their system was more fair to all.
Examining the culture around her, Matilda found motivation and logic in her argument that the United States government and society was oppressive. It had been proven that an equal society was in existence and had been for hundreds of years.
Territories of the Haudenosaunee People.