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The declining status of native women after European contact

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Megan W.
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  1. Introduction
  2. Native American women
  3. European contact
  4. Conclusion

Contact between Europeans and Indians brought together two disparate systems of gender divisions. Prior to European contact, Native American women enjoyed greater levels of power and autonomy than their white counterparts. As European influence and culture spread, it predicated a decline in native women's social, political and economic status within their communities. Women's efforts to adapt to the new social situation were varied and inventive but ultimately ineffective.

Before delving into the ways gender roles were changed, it is first necessary to define them as they existed before the intrusion of European influence. Women's social, political, and economic roles were defined by greater autonomy and power than their contemporary European counterparts. The division of labor along gender lines empowered native women, rather than disenfranchising them, and they were able to wield greater economic and political influence in their communities.

[...] The declining status of native women after European contact Contact between Europeans and Indians brought together two disparate systems of gender divisions. Prior to European contact, Native American women enjoyed greater levels of power and autonomy than their white counterparts. As European influence and culture spread, it predicated a decline in native women's social, political and economic status within their communities. Women's efforts to adapt to the new social situation were varied and inventive but ultimately ineffective. Before delving into the ways gender roles were changed, it is first necessary to define them as they existed before the intrusion of European influence. [...]


[...] The final sector in which women's status decreased after European contact was economic. The onset of the fur trade increased native society's dependence on trade goods and changed the previously subsistence-based economy.[18] Good which were normally produced by women, such as clothing, were now obtained through trade. With nothing to replace their traditional work activities, women lost that segment of their economic niche.[19] Trade altered native economics as a whole. As newly acquired European goods became necessities rather than luxury items, Natives became locked in a cycle of dependency. [...]

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