Contagious disease and Huron women, 1630-1650
In the pre-contact era, Huron women were relatively powerful. They were active participants in the political, economic, and cultural activities of pre-contact Huronia. After contact with Europeans, however, epidemic disease swept through the Huron country. As a virgin soil population, the Hurons were devastated by contagious disease. Beginning in 1634, they witnessed epidemic outbreaks of diseases such as measles, scarlet fever, influenza, and smallpox. The epidemics had a harsh physical toll on all Hurons, particularly pregnant and breast-feeding women. The incidence of disease was high and the mortality rate was at least fifty percent. The epidemics also had cultural consequences. As a result of epidemic disease, the Hurons witnessed changes to their political processes, economic activities, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs. Two of the most significant cultural consequences of contagious disease were warfare with the Five Nations and the loss of faith in traditional beliefs. Each of the cultural changes instigated by contagious disease affected the power and prestige of Huron women. The impact of contagious disease on Huron women was overwhelmingly negative.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeMiller, James R.; De Brou, Dave
Copyright DateDecember 1996
epidemics - Native North Americans
diseases and history -- America
communicable diseases -- North America -- history