Women of the Dawn

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Women of the Dawn tells the stories of four remarkable Wabanaki Indian women who lived in northeast America during the four centuries that devastated their traditional world. Their courageous responses to tragedies brought on by European contact make up the heart of this book.

The narrative begins with Molly Mathilde, a mother, peacemaker, and the daughter of a famous chief. Born in the mid-1600s, when Wabanakis first experienced the full ...
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Overview

Women of the Dawn tells the stories of four remarkable Wabanaki Indian women who lived in northeast America during the four centuries that devastated their traditional world. Their courageous responses to tragedies brought on by European contact make up the heart of this book.

The narrative begins with Molly Mathilde, a mother, peacemaker, and the daughter of a famous chief. Born in the mid-1600s, when Wabanakis first experienced the full effects of colonial warfare, disease, and displacement, she provided a vital link for her people through marriage to the French baron of St. Castin. The saga continues with the shrewd and legendary healer Molly Ockett and the reputed witchwoman Molly Molasses. The final chapter belongs to Molly Dellis Nelson known as Spotted Elk, a celebrated performer on European stages who lived to see the dawn of Wabanaki cultural renewal.

Combined, these brief biographies tell the long saga of colonization from the rare vantage point of women. They wed fact with feeling, and each story is a step in a spiritual pilgrimage from innocence to shrewdness to bitterness to wisdom. The journey is represented metaphorically by linking each life to a particular season--the bountiful ease of summer, the foreboding of fall, the destitution of winter, the promise of spring.

Winner of the Friends of American Writers Literary Award

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Editorial Reviews

William David Barry
A prose poem of beauty and honesty.... McBride gives us a real feeling for the lives, aspirations and achievements of Wabanaki women.
Portland Press Herald
Donna Gold
This is a mournful book, something I had not expected. I had enthusiastically jumped into the stories of these women, hoping to know them, to understand their courage, their renown. But as soon as the dawn of these women included Europeans, the trajectory couldn't be anything but tragic. What I did come to understand, somewhere in the first chapter, was my naiveté in assuming their lives would be otherwise.... While McBride acknowledges the tragedy of the women, she looks beyond the darkness of night into the dawn.
Maine Times
M.J. Schneider
McBride chronicles the lives of four Mollies, all Wabanaki/Penobscot women from different centuries, who adapted to the non-Indian presence an attempts at assimilation in different ways. The stories of the four women provide a brief glimpse into the difficulties encountered by Maine Indians from the days of the fur traders to the present, and show how people struggled and survived. The life of Molly Delis Nelson, better known by her stage name of Molly Spotted Elk (see McBride's biography Molly Spotted Elk, CH, Feb '96), serves as the theme connecting the women.

With her account of Molly Dellis Nelson and her interest in the earlier Mollies and tribal history and culture, McBride ends on a note of optimism for tribal cultures. Because there is little biographical data available on Native American women, McBride used her knowledge of native culture to imagine how the women felt and behaved at crucial points in their lives. This creative approach to writing history is controversial, but a section on methodology and references explains the basis for McBride's reconstructions, which humanize the women and make their stories more interesting. General readers; undergraduates.—Choice

Portland Press Herald

"A bold, successful effort that defies classification. A prose poem of beauty and honesty."—Portland Press Herald
Midwest Book Review

"The narrative begins with Molly Mathilde, a mother, peacemaker, and daughter of a famous chief. Born in the mid-1600s, when Wabanakis first experienced the full effects of colonial warfare, disease, and displacement, she provided a vital link for her people through her marriage to the French baron of St. Castin. The saga continues with the shrewd and legendary healer Molly Ockett and the reputed witchwoman Molly Molasses. The final chapter focuses on Molly Dellis Nelson (known as Spotted Elk), a celebrated performer on European stages who lived to see the dawn of Wabanaki cultural renewal in the modern era. Women of the Dawn is a welcome, informative, and valued contribution."—Midwest Book Review
Harvard University Gazette

"I recommend Women of the Dawn, a short but rich exploration of the lives of four Wabanaki women, all named 'Molly.' . . . It is lyrical and poetic but based on many years of fieldwork and scholarship."—Harvard University Gazette
Donna M. Loring

"Penobscot women, like all Wabanaki women, have long been the guardians of their people. The four women profiled by McBride possessed energy and power that strengthened and sustained them. They changed the lives of those with whom they came in contact. A rare glimpse of these women can be seen within the pages of this book."—Donna M. Loring, Penobscot Nation Tribal Representative
Jill E. Shibles

"Rich in historic and visual detail, Women of the Dawn gives a poignant and compelling voice to long silent Native American women. . . . The book evokes powerful and haunting emotions."—Jill E. Shibles, President, National American Indian Court Judges Association
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803232099
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1999
  • Pages: 152
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 9.31 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author


Bunny McBride is the author of Molly Spotted Elk: A Penobscot in Paris, among other works. She is an adjunct lecturer of anthropology at Kansas State University and Principia College, and guest curator for an exhibit based on this book at the Abbe Museum, Bar Harbor, Maine.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Portage 1
1 Moon of Ripening Berries: Molly Mathilde (Marie Mathilde), ca. 1665-1717 5
Portage 39
2 Moon of Freezing Rivers: Molly Ockett (Marie Agathe), ca. 1740-1816 43
Portage 69
3 Moon of Blinding Snow: Molly Molasses (Mary Pelagie), ca. 1775-1867 73
Portage 95
4 Sowing Moon: Molly Dellis (Mary Alice Nelson Archambaud), 1903-1977 99
Portage 133
Methodology and References 135
Illustrations 152
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