1600: Iroquois Women Gain Power to Veto War

Account of the struggle of Iroquois women to stop frequent tribal conflict, by refusing sex and agricultural cultivation.

Submitted by Reddebrek on January 25, 2017

Iroquois women gain power to veto wars, 1600s

During the 1600’s the Iroquois Indian Nations, a group of several indigenous tribes in North America, engaged in warfare with many other tribes. The men controlled when and against whom they declared a war.

Tribal Iroquois women decided that they wanted to stop unregulated warfare, and thought of a way to convince the Iroquois men to give them more power in deciding issues of war and peace.

First, the Iroquois women boycotted lovemaking and childbearing. This type of boycott of sex is currently referred to as Lysistratic non-action. Iroquois men believed that Iroquois women knew the secret of birth, which made this a powerful tactic.

Second, the women began to restrict the warriors' access to supplies because they had complete control over planting and cultivating crops. The women prevented warriors from acquiring necessary supplies by withholding needed commodities such as dried corn and moccasins. Although the Iroquois men controlled politics, they could not go to war without the necessary supplies, which were controlled by the women.

The men eventually gave in to the women’s demands and granted them veto power concerning all wars. This nonviolent action has been considered the first feminist rebellion in the United States.


Hand, Judith. Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace. San Diego, CA: Questpath Pub., 2003. Print.
Schaaf, Gregory. "From the Great Law of Peace to the Constitution of the United States: A Revision of America's Democratic Roots." American Indian Law Review 14.2 (1988). JSTOR. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. .

Sharp, Gene. The Politics of Nonviolent Action. Boston: P. Sargent, 1973. Print.

Smith, Sharon. "Engels and the Origin of Women's Oppression." International Socialist Review 2 (1997). International Socialist Review. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. .

Additional Notes:

This nonviolent action has been considered the first feminist rebellion in the United States.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy:

Nicole Vanchieri 17/04/2011

Published for the Global Nonviolent Action Database