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Chain Her By One Foot
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The Subjugation of Native

Women in Seventeenth-Century New France
 
By Karen Anderson
 
Review by John P. Rodriguez

I think that Anderson’s book, Chain Her by One Foot, is a well researched look at the often ignored subject of Native American women.  However, given the narrow subject on which Anderson writes, I think that her book is better suited to upper division undergraduate or graduate students rather than the general public.  The book is also very dry and not the best suited book for a pleasurable read.  However, Anderson does an excellent job of providing a detailed background to the situation and an explanation of the societies that both groups, Native American and French, came from.

Anderson does a good job of providing a background on the Jesuits and French Society.  She explains how the French came to North America, how New France was founded, and what the French sought to gain from it.  She also tells of the founding of the Jesuit order, their mission in New France, and a description of their biases.  In particular, she explains the sexism that was prevalent in France and in the Jesuits.  The inferiority of women was a basic belief of Western Society at this time.  Its roots can be traced as far back as Aristotle.  Aristotle was a key influence on St. Thomas Aquinas, and Aquinas influenced writers of the 16th and 17th Centuries.  She also explains why the Jesuits were so focused on the sacrament of marriage.  An important reason was that they wished to control the children, and if the parents are married in the Christian tradition then their children will follow suit. 

The book is very well researched.  Anderson provides a bountiful number of in-text citations for the reader.  She also provides notes, a rather extensive bibliography, and an index.  The in-text citations allow the reader to locate exactly where Anderson found the material that she is using.  This is very useful for a reader who wishes to pursue additional research on this topic.  Anderson has also found four pictures to include in her book.  I found the use of imagery good because it helps the reader to picture what is being described, and it is also a break from her prose.  However, I find that she could have done more to find additional images, and to space them throughout the book rather then having them clustered in one small section.

The book is organized in a reasonable manner.  Anderson begins her work by focusing on the Jesuits and their views towards women.  Although Anderson structures her book well, I would have approached the subject differently.  I think that it would have been better to describe the lifestyle of the Native Americans first then describe the Jesuits.  I also think that describing the Native Americans earlier in the book would make the book more interesting since the main focus is on Native Americans rather than the Jesuits.

Overall, I think that Anderson has done a good job in writing a well researched and detailed work.  I would recommend it to anyone seriously interested in the subject of the subjugation of Native Women by Western colonialism.

 

John Rodriguez

HIST 202 (A) Jesuits in New France

Mount Saint Mary's University

3 November 2004  

 

 

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