In the early fifteenth century, in the region of the St Lawrence River, the Jesuits, under the leadership of Father Paul Le Jeune, were determined to ‘civilize’ the Montagnais-Naskapi Indians. A peaceful easy living people, where physical abuse was considered a terrible crime, children were never given more than a simple reprimand, and the chief led not by force of power but the eloquence of his words, women held great influence – this was a largely matrilineal society; property and power was passed down the female line. To the French this way of living was unacceptable; they needed to transform them into peasant-serfs, to show them that a woman’s proper place is under the authority of her husband, and the people should obey their leaders – they needed to change them as they had their Indian’s counterparts in France centuries earlier. To this end they coerced or captured the children, placed them into school and taught them to obey by battering, neglecting, torturing, imprisoning, and psychologically tormenting them to ‘educate’ them. They informed the men that French women do not rule their husbands – they instigated male rule and dominance. Men who did not conform – and there were many – would not be given the backing of the church or political institutions – power was transferred only to the men who agreed to the French system. For Le Jeune understood – as Paula Gunn Allen points out in her book The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the feminine in American Indian traditions – to assault the peaceful system founded on giving power to women requires child terrorization, male dominance, and the submission of women to male authority.
The Montagnais provide a clear example of the fall of women in society at the hands of male-dominant oppressors. This wasn’t just limited to the Americas. Women all over the world were to suffer a similar unjust and unwarranted fate. Many are still suffering today.
The downfall of women was inevitable. Women as a group were always going to be treated as inferior to men, undervalued, underappreciated, and disrespected. By understanding human desires we can come to terms with why it was always going to be this way, why it should never have been allowed to happen, and what you can do to help change it.
One of the aims of The Fall and Rise of Women, How women can change the world, is to help us all better understand the basic desires that drive and define us as human beings. This is about understanding our hearts, and what deeply satisfies us. When we reconnect with our inner selves, feel it, and know it, it can guide us and help us improve the quality of all our lives, and transform the world.