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Millions of women voted this election. They have the Iroquois to thank.

Jessica Nordell writes, "In 1893, Matilda Joslyn Gage — firebrand, women’s rights activist and co-founder of the National Woman Suffrage Association — was arrested for trying to vote in a school board election upstate New York. Voting while female was illegal, and Gage went to trial. That same year, Gage was honorarily adopted into the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk Nation of the Iroquois. This meant that she would join the Council of Matrons, a decision-making body. She would have a say in who became chief.

She would, in other words, have a vote.

This election, over sixty million women turned out to vote. Regardless of how we cast our ballots, every one of us owes thanks for that right not only to early suffragists like Gage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, but to the Iroquois women who inspired them.

Unlike European American women of the mid-19th century, Iroquois women had tremendous political authority. Though the process of assimilation had begun, the essence of Iroquois society had remained intact. In the Iroquois Confederacy (including the Onandaga, Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida, Cayuga, and later Tuscarora Nations), women participated in all major decision-making. Women had the power to veto any act of war. And women selected the chiefs."


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