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The Importance of Women in the Colonial World

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The Importance of Women in the Colonial World Women's importance in the colonial world was an ever-changing process. They were seen as equals in early Native society but over the years women's roles have changed drastically. The books one has studied have great influence on how people view women in the past but others have little. Women have played a role from the earliest times even before written language, among the Natives, in their stories and legends of women beings. Women once had a role in every aspect of human lives but as the colonists and religious leaders from other countries started to migrate there role was changed and never reestablished. Women have important roles to play in their own societies. Eleanor Burke Leacock's, Myths of Male Dominance: Collective articles on Women Cross- Culturally (Monthly Review Press New York and London, 1981), beautifully describes the importance of native women and their roles. Leacock points out that "universal male dominance is myth not fact"1 and because this book contains articles by different authors, one gets a wide variety of works that each encourage and represent women in different areas. The authors illustrate native women before and during colonial times by discussing gender roles, the evolution of society, and male dominance ideology. Leacock gathered articles that directly represent women's roles in an economic position as in horticulture and land ownership, and their high status in their own tribe.


The realization that women and men would have to be given the same amount of attention is mentioned early in the novel by one Jesuit leader. Christianity had to be accepted by both sexes before converting could be arranged. This novel, by Etienne and Leacock, looks at how different the French and Native views were especially concerning men and women's roles in society. The book Words From New France: The Selected Letters of Marie De L'Incarnation (Oxford University Press, Toronto, 1967) is translated and edited by Joyce Marshall. Marie's interesting life is documented by the letters she wrote. Claude Martin first published the letters she had written about five years after her death and their was an estimated twenty thousand. The letters reflect the real life of a women who had to overcome herself and change her life as she and God saw fit. Marie lived a miraculous life with trails and conquests like many women for the time. She was strong and she did what she could to help the people she encountered. Marie had connections with oversea powers and loved, for the most part, what she did overseas in the new world, now named Canada. American Indian Prose and Poetry: An Anthropology (Capricorn Books Edition, 1962) is edited by Margot Astrov and is a collection of poems from different Aboriginal Nations. The poems and songs reflect native people's dreams, love, heaven, legends, and mythological beings.


Each women is written precisely about with interesting facts about their lives. Davis's book is well-written and researched and the reader can get a real sense of the times these women shared with their own personal passions exerted. Leib, De L'Incarnation, and Merian lived very different lives but are connected with their inner ambitions pouring out of their hearts. The novels one has studied concurs a variety of life roles of women. The changing cycle of life brings with it a variety of responsibilities and importance for women. One has seen women as being the center of their communities with decisions, rituals/ceremonies, and legends being based on the woman being but through the colonists and other European peoples women's role was almost obsolete. They have had to struggle to reclaim the role they once had in the early times of history. Fur trade was a great time for most women were in the middle of it with intermarriages. There role was vital through communication and kinship ties yet some authors neglect to mention the importance of this. Women have accomplished many great and difficult tasks to achieve what they have and much credit is needed to restore the sense of dignity that once followed with them. Women have had such a great importance in the colonial world and even within their own cultures yet male dominance expels them. Women are now restoring the history of their elders and great legends to be equally harmonized with their male counterparts which once relied on them for the basic necessities.

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