History 246 Reading Guide

Native-American Women

  • Nancy Shoemaker, "The Rise or Fall of Iroquois Women," Journal of Women's History 2.3 (1991), 39-57.  Project Muse 
  • Theda Perdue, "Cherokee Women and the Trail of Tears," Journal of Women's History 1.1 (1989), 14-30.  Project Muse 

Further reading:

  • "A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison" by James E. Seaver (1824), The Project Gutenberg Ebook; also reprinted in Frances Roe Kestler, The Indian Captivity Narrative:  A Woman's View (1990), 123-138.
  • Mary C. Wright, "Economic Development and Native American Women in the Early 19th Century,"American Quarterly 33.5 (1981), 525-36.  JSTOR
  • Joan M. Jensen, "Native American Women and Agriculture:  A Seneca Case Study," Sex Roles 3 (1977). [in Ellen Carol DuBois and Vicki L. Ruiz, Unequal Sisters:  A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History 1st ed. (1990), 51-65].
  • Rayna Green, "The Pocahontas Perplex:  The Image of Indian Women in American Culture," The Massachusetts Review (1975). [in Ellen Carol DuBois and Vicki L. Ruiz, Unequal Sisters:  A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History 1st ed. (1990), 15-21].


  • How does Shoemaker revise the "declension narrative" that has characterized the history of Native American women? What does her revision suggest about Seneca women's experience and the experiences of the Iroquois more broadly?
  • What changes occurred in Seneca women's political participation, their economic role, and their role and place in the family and community in the nineteenth century? When, and why, did those changes occur? What evidence of persistence did she discover, in women's roles and in Seneca culture more broadly?
  • What does her study contribute to our understanding of the complex interaction of gender, race, and class in the determination and evolution of women's experiences?
  • According to Perdue, what pre-Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary transformations did the Cherokee experience? How, and to what extent did those changes alter women's "status" and roles in the two tribes?
  • How did the experience of Cherokee women compare and contrast to that of Seneca women? How can we explain the differences?
  • How does our understanding of those earlier changes alter the way we ask questions about women's experience and the "trail of tears"?
  • What conclusions does Perdue draw about the decisions leading up to and the consequences of Cherokee removal—for women, for men, and for the Cherokee as a people?