Imagine that women have the responsibility to choose all political representatives, removing from office anyone who did not address the wishes and needs of the people while looking to the seventh generation ahead. Imagine women living in a world free from violence committed against them, having the final say in matters of war and peace, and having the absolute right to their own bodies. In this society, imagine that women are also responsible for planning the spiritual ceremonies and have economic independence from men. Haudenosaunee (traditional Iroquois) women have had this authority—and more—for centuries before Europeans came to North America.
When women in New York State began to organize for their rights in 1848, they took their cue from the nearby native communities. Haudenosaunee women ignited the revolutionary vision of early feminists by providing a model of freedom and agency. Euro-American women were inspired by the Native American women’s control of their bodies and property, religious voice, custody of their children, satisfying work, and absence of rape and domestic violence. Finally, they saw political equality in action, as clan mothers nominated the chiefs, held them in position, and removed them, if necessary. Everyone had a voice in decisions, women and men equally.