North America is called Turtle Island

The Role of Women in Early 19th Century America and James Seavers


1 Biographical overview

2 The role of women in the early 19th century
2.1 Everyday work
2.1.1 American Women
2.1.2 Seneca Women
2.1.3 Mary Jemison
2.2 Political activity
2.2.1 American Women
2.2.2 Seneca Women
2.2.3 Mary Jemison
2.3 Partnership and family
2.3.1 American Women
2.3.2 Seneca Women
2.3.3 Mary Jemison

3 Summary of the comparisons


1 Biographical overview

Mary Jemison was born on a ship passage from Ireland to North America, believed to be in 1742. The happy parents ended up in Philadelphia without any major difficulties. Since her father was very fond of country life and the idea of ​​having his own farm, the young family soon left the city and moved to the inner-American border zone - the Frontier - in Pennsylvania (Seaver 62). The first ranchers and farmers had already settled east of this line. Since the stream of newcomers in this region did not ebb, the borderline shifted further and further to the west, which was regarded by the settlers as a wilderness. However, various Indian tribes have lived there for hundreds of years, and they have now involuntarily had to retreat further inland. Initially, these problems did not affect the young parents very much. After Mary's father built a farm near a small stream, the fruits of the labor could finally be enjoyed (Seaver 63). For the next seven or eight years, Mary was introduced to the role and duties of a woman by her mother. But luck did not last long, as in the spring of 1752 stories of murdering and plundering Indians, some of whom had joined the French, were making the rounds with increasing frequency. After three more years, the same fate finally struck the Jemison family: Together with another family, they were kidnapped by a group of Shawanee Indians and French. While the rest of the group was being killed, the Indians brought Mary and a boy to Fort Pitt. There, Mary was given to two Seneca women, whom she adopted according to Indian tradition to compensate for the loss of a brother who was killed. So she became a full member of Seneca. Little by little, Mary was introduced to the language, customs, but also the duties and work of an Indian woman by her two new sisters. Eventually she even got married to a Delaware Indian. After his early death, she was married a second time. Mary Jemison had a total of eight children from both men. In the turmoil of the American Revolutionary War, Mary decided to separate from her tribe in 1779 in order to be able to take better care of herself and the children (Seaver 105).

As you can see, with the help of her mother, Mary Jemison got to know the role of a "white" woman, but also that of an Indian through her two Seneca sisters. Although she spent most of her life with the Iroquois, she gave the record of James E. Seaver - who wrote her story - that she had remained “white” (Tawil 102): She “referred not to ´color` as we now understand the term, but to a special kind of subjectivity that was in turn the product of a particular kind of household ”(Tawil 101).

The aim of the following pages is to examine whether Mary Jemison really did not adapt socially and culturally to the Indians during her time with the Indians.

2 The role of women in the early 19th century

In order to be able to determine whether Mary has adapted to the role of Seneca women or whether she has stuck to the "traditional" role that she got to know with her mother, it is first necessary to know the typical tasks / behaviors of American people and illuminated by Indian women. Then these specific roles are compared to that of Mary Jemison.

2.1 Everyday work

2.1.1 American Women

Since the majority of American immigrants came from England, it is not surprising that, according to European tradition, the typical working environment for a woman was in and around the house:

If we were to draw a line around the housewife's domain, it would extend from the kitchen and its appendages, the cellars, pantries, brewhouses, milkhouses, washhouses, and buttaries which appear in various combinations in household inventories, to the exterior of the house , where, even in the city, a mélange of animal and vegetable life flourished among the straw, husks clutter and muck. Encircling the pigpen, such a line would surround the garden, the milkyard, the well, the henhouse, and perhaps the orchard itself ... Good housewives strung their wash between the trees and in season harvested fruit for pies and conserves (Kerber 28).

The most fundamental task of every American woman, however, was to light a fire and not let it go out. Because in an age when electricity did not yet exist or only existed in some large cities, a fire was of fundamental importance for working in most of the above-mentioned parts of the building. This was especially true for activities in the kitchen, where white women had a lot to do: Most women were “adept not only at roasting, frying, and boiling but also at baking, the most difficult branch of cookery” (Kerber 30). As you can imagine, they also had to take on many other tasks on a daily basis, such as milking cows or looking after other cattle. Apart from that, there were also obligations that only had to be exercised in certain times of the year. During the berry and mushroom season, many women went to nearby forests to collect them (Kerber 28).

But the women were not only responsible for feeding the family. Most also made an important contribution to the “economic” survival of the family. Because up to the beginning of the industrialization of America there was a spinning wheel in almost every household, with which wool was spun, some of which was resold at high profit (Kerber 37).

2.1.2 Seneca Women

The role of Seneca women that too gantowisas are called, is closely related to the mythology or the history of the origins of the Iroquois, which must be briefly reproduced here for further understanding: A very long time ago, the "people" lived in Karionake, the Sky World that drifted among the stars. They were very similar to us humans, but they had immense knowledge and also had superhuman abilities. In the middle of Sky World stopped a magnificent, large tree - Ono’´dja - the top and bottom of Karionake together. One day, the misdirected residents of Sky World overturned this tree and a giant hole was created. Bumped through this The Ancient One his pregnant wife, Sky womanbecause he was jealous of her shamanic abilities. When she fell, she reached out Ono’´djabecause she hoped to be saved or to survive. Since she got hold of the roots of the tree, she could grab various seeds and germs. She had it in her right hand Three sisters - Corn, bean and pumpkin seeds - while there was tobacco in her left hand. The aquatic creatures of the earth saw Sky woman fall and decided with the help of a gigantic turtle Turtle Island - North America - to create. That was a livelihood for Sky woman created. After them on Turtle Island landed, she gave birth to her daughter Lynx. When it was old enough to run, mother and daughter explored the area, planted the seeds, and even created new plants, such as the potato (Man 32f).

As you can see, women already play the decisive role in the creation story. This story also gave rise to the assumption among the Seneca that the gantowisas had a privilege to use the land. So put Seth Newhouse, an Onodaga Indian, at a meeting of the Five Nations The following states: “Women shall be considered the progenitors of the Nation. They shall own the land and the soil "(Fenton 42). However, it should be noted that the Iroquois terms like possession and property meant something different from what they do in today's western society: “To the Iroquois ... ownership did not mean transferable legal title; rather, it meant usufruct ”(Tooker 116).

Since the women had been the Iroquois' gardening and agriculture experts for decades, they had earned the right to the land. They had to take full advantage of this. While the men provided a change in diet with the game they hunted, the women produced with the Three sisters the majority of daily living. With the help of a hoe and one digging sticks they worked together to cultivate the fields (Bilharz 102f). The processing and preparation of the food was also a woman's business. The main ingredient for every meal was ground corn or other mashed grain. Various plant and animal species were then added to this.


End of the reading sample from 16 pages