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Iroquois Indian Museum

Yet one cannot treat the unprecedented control of Iroquois women where social power is concerned as if it were an historical accident or oddity. There are some underlying reasons why the women of the Iroquois were able to exercise an unprecedented power balance in their culture, a balance which has yet to see another culture rival it today where women are in control. How this control was achieved is through a means very similar to the ways in which men dominate and control power in and between countries today: economics. The power of controlling economics is often a great power. Without resources, very little can be accomplished for the good of the culture.

The Iroquois women remained in control of the economic base of their society: food and sustenance. As pointed out by Brown:

Iroquois women controlled the factors of agriculture production, for they had a right in the land which they cultivated, and in the implements and the seeds. Iroquois agricultural activities, which yielded bountiful harvests, were highly organized under elected female leadership. Most important, Iroquois women maintained the right to distribute and dispense all food, even procured by men. This was especially significant as stored food constituted one of the major forms of wealth for the tribe.

One can see how economic control is able to gain control for women in other areas of society. For example, since the food was tied into the economic order of the tribe and the women had complete control over it, they also had complete power. For instance, they could withhold the food for meetings of Council or for war parties. They controlled the use of food during religious and other ceremonies and significant tribal events. The daily household meals were also affected by this one-sided situation, and further control came to the women in this manner.

Through this judicious use of food rationing and control, the women quite successfully made their in...

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Iroquois Indian Museum. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:46, August 20, 2017, from
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