The Importance of Women in the Colonial World

Authors Avatar

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” 

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. She also goes through the

struggles and hardships some societies of native women had to go through.

        In the book American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492, by

Russell Thornton (University of Oklahoma Press, 1987) native women are scarcely mentioned.

Thornton discusses women very briefly and is more interested in the native society as a whole. Women

are mentioned in areas of the book containing fertility declines, the Cheyenne flight in which women and children were brutally murdered, the 1870 Ghost Dance, health care, and intermarriage. Women’s

importance is irrelevant to their male counterparts, for both native and European settlers, of the time.

Thornton writes on their struggles but fails to mention any impact it may have had on the women

directly. This book is written from the male perspective and gives women little credit for the important

role they played in their own civilizations.  

        American Indian Mythology (Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1968) by authors Alice

Marriott and Carol K. Rachlin is a novel of collected myths and stories about native culture. The stories

explain how materials in the real and superficial world came to be and most revolve around the lives of

Join now!

young men. Women are usually seen the foolish one’s who make mistakes as in the stories “How the

Half Boys Came to Be,” and “Male and Female Created He Them: The River of Separation.” In these

stories, women are seen begging for their husbands and even being killed for disobeying them. Morals

and teachings are mixed in with the new discoveries of the time but men are the victors and women are

the fools. Women are praised in the mentioning of the “Grandmother Spider” who can control men

through their thoughts. This ...

This is a preview of the whole essay