Sisters In Spirit: The Iroquois Influence On Early American Feminists

In this informative and inspiratinal video the Onondaga Historical Association host a collaborative talk between Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner (author, lecturer, performance interpreter of women’s rights history, and Executive Director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation) and Jeanne Shenandoah, a member of the Eel Clan of the Onondaga Nation, and a member of the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force

The event was originally produced on Sunday, March 8, 2009 and  tells the history of the Iroquois Confederacy, whose practice of gender equality inspired the emerging women’s rights movement in upstate New York over 100 years ago.

“Feminism is about transforming society to create whole human beings”  — Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner


Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage, the two major theoreticians of the early women’s rights movement, had direct knowledge of the Haudenosaunee, writing about the superior social, political, religious and economic status of women in the Iroquois nations. Their work for women’s rights, Wagner argues, was inspired by the vision they received from the Haudenosaunee of gender balance and harmony.

The theme of Wagner’s work has been telling untold stories. Her monograph, She Who Holds the Sky: Matilda Joslyn Gage, (Sky Carrier Press, 2003), reveals a suffragist written out of history because of her stand against the religious right 100 years ago, while Sisters in Spirit: Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Influence on Early American Feminists (Native Voices, 2001), documents the influence of native women on early women’s rights activists.

Jeanne Shenandoah is a member of Eel Clan of the Onondaga Nation and serves as a representative of the Onondaga Nation in Onondaga Lake Environmental Cleanup. Jeanne is a member of Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force, founding Vice President of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, and practiced as a homebirth midwife for 28 years. Shenandoah has focused her work on educating the community about her traditional life as a member of the Eel Clan and bridging between the native and non-native nations and the impact it has had on our community over the past 30 years. In 2002, as a Haudenosaunce woman representing the spiritual tradition of indigenous women, Shenandoah attended The Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Shenandoah has also shared her personal story in Syracuse Stage’s production, Tales from Salt City. In 2005, she received The Harriet Tubman Humanitarian Achievement Award.


Deep Green Resistance gives thanks for the decades of thinking, writing, sharing and work of women globally.

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