Before the month of March ends, and simultaneously the month designated as Women’s History month, it is appropriate to recall the influence that Iroquois women had upon the American women who created the women’s rights efforts in the mid 1800s. It is now more apparent that many contemporary scholars recognize that Iroquois women enjoyed significant ‘rights’ that women in European society could only dream of having. Upon closer scrutiny, it can be further ascertained that early women’s rights advocates in the United States were influenced by the Iroquois women and their place in their tribal culture. It was no mere coincidence that the first women’s rights convention was organized at Seneca Falls in upstate New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton who had moved to an area of upstate New York near the Seneca tribal peoples. Not only Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but others of the early women’s rights advocates lived near to, or knew directly, Iroquois Indian women who lived in greater harmony with their male counterparts within the Iroquois cultral sphere. In addition to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Matilda Joslyn Gage lived in upstate New York, and Lucretia Mott had visited the Seneca peoples, and the common denominator was that all three suffragists personally knew Iroquois women. These Indian women belonged to a population of American Indian peoples originally known as the Iroquois League, which included five tribes united under the Great Law of Peace. This union or confederation initially consisted of five nations: the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and the Seneca. The union of these tribes proved to be incredibly strong, and was practically implemented by the creation of the longhouses where many families (up to 20 or more) would live together under the same roof. These people referred to themselves as the Haudenosaunee (people of the long house). They originally named their league the “Kanonsionni” which means “extended house.” Thus, the longhouse became more than just a dwelling place, and the concept of the longhouse was core to the people’s identity and became the symbol of the union of these northeastern American Indian nations. Such a solidifying concept was even extended to the way the tribes lived in harmony side by side on their respective stretches of land to the south and east of Lake Ontario. The Seneca Indians were the ones who lived in the furthermost western end of the territory dominated by the Iroquois Confederation. What Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Lucretia Mott observed in their time was that most Iroquois women participated fully in maintaining the economic, political, social, and spiritual well-being of their communities and clans. The women served as the keepers of their people’s culture. They served as clan leaders and the tribal leadership was matrilineal, as the sister of the sachems (chiefs or leaders) chose the male successor once her brother no longer held a leadership position. Women not only nominated the men for positions of leadership, but could also insist that the leaders be removed from power if they did not fulfill their responsibilities to the clan or tribe. Ultimately, the Iroquois women were responsible for raising the children, but also the Iroquois women participated in many activities and held responsibilities that were primarily reserved only for men in the European-based culture. Iroquois women could own property and were the ones who actually owned the land. It seemed natural that the land was under the control of the women since they were the ones who tended the crops, and as the Iroquois were an agricultural-based society, women were fundamentally the ones responsible for nourishing the community. To Stanton, Gage, Mott, and their feminist contemporaries, the Native American conception of everyday decency, nonviolence, and gender justice must have contrasted greatly with the laws and customs in the developing United States. The local American women would have read newspaper accounts of everyday Iroquois activities. They could have also been aware of interviews with white teachers inside various Indian nations, Indian men did not rape women. The Indian women were respected and this eliminated fears of being attacked or abused. In this time, suffragists lived as neighbors to men of other nations whose religious, legal, social, and economic concept of women made such behavior unthinkable. Until women’s rights advocates began the painstaking task of changing state laws, a husband had the legal right to batter his wife (to interfere would “upset the domestic tranquility of the home,” one state supreme court held). For the American women, this standard of gender equality among the Iroquois served as a model for their future hopes and dreams of some degree of equality between men and women. It was likely quite odd to the American women, especially in viewing a matrilineal culture of the Iroquois, the woman’s husband would normally live in the home of the wife’s clan. More amazing still was that if a woman felt that her husband was not being a good husband for her or her children as a good husband, she could ask him to leave their dwelling and essentially divorce the man. And if the husband was asked to leave the family, the children remained with their mothers. Fundamentally, the homes of the Indians and the homes of the European descendents were run quite differently. The ways the homes were run also spilled over into the way the respective societies were organized and politically oriented. On the whole, the Indian communities held women to a higher moral standard since the women were essentially responsible for raising the children and the training of the future generations. This facet of the women’s role assured the survival of the people and their culture. Women were awarded genuine respect for this as well as their spiritual and practical wisdom. This dignified position within Iroquois culture might be partly attributed to one of their religious creation stories called the “Woman Who Fell from the Sky,” which relates the story of a pregnant woman, Atahensic, who asked her husband to bring her the ancient equivalent of pickles and ice cream; but in her case, she asked for the bark of the root of the Great Tree in the middle of the Sky World. The respectful husband dug into the dirt around the tree to get to the roots, but in digging too much, her husband opened up a hole in Sky World, and as Sky Woman peered into the hole, she fell through. As she fell, the legend explains that Sky Woman was aided by birds who helped her land on the back of a great Sea Turtle. The place on the turtle’s back became populated with bits of roots and plants she had brought down with her from Sky World, and thus she helped create the place on Earth that the Native Americans call Turtle Island, or what the Europeans came to identify as North America. So, to the Iroquois people, a woman originated a series of events on Earth that ultimately created humankind. The legend of Sky Woman is still revered today and may explain a lot about the Iroquois people. Essentially, at the core of the legend, and at the heart of the traditional respectful and trusting relatons between the male and female members of the Iroquois society is the fact that women were viewed as the link to the foundation of life, the creation of life, and fundamentally the bearing of the future life of the culture. Comparatively, such a revered attitude toward woman had more to do with the women’s role as mothers than anything else as their whole society centered upon their homes, the longhouses, where the clan was always welcomed under the same roof. Women were understood to be at the core of the survival of the Iroquois people.