Humanities in Class Online Courses

Women of the Americas: Early Encounters and Entangled Histories

Image resources included in the New-York Historical Society’s Women & the American Story curriculum website.

The history of European discovery, contact, and early settlement in the Americas is traditionally represented as a chain of great men. Students and the wider public are often familiar with the lives of few women beyond Martha Washington, Betsy Ross, and now the Schuyler sisters. This course disrupts narratives that focus exclusively on the history of men by exploring the lives of European, Indigenous, and African-descended women during the sixteenth through early eighteenth centuries. Women from a variety of backgrounds were integral to the development of Spanish, Dutch, English, and French colonial societies in North America. This course traces the lives of Indigenous interpreters, enslaved laborers, and women who traversed the Atlantic and carved a place for themselves in colonial legal, social, and economic systems. The history of the Americas cannot be understood without examining the experiences of these women.

This course has been designed with the generous support of the New-York Historical Society.

Professional Development Hours: 35

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Fall 2021, Session 2: November 8–December 17
Spring 2022, Session 1: January 24–March 4
Spring 2022, Session 2: March 21–May 6

Images: (1) Lienzo de Tlaxcala, Hernán Cortés and La Malinche meet Moctezuma II in Tenochtitlan, November 8, 1519. Facsimile (c. 1890) of Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Courtesy of The Bancroft Library, the University of California, Berkeley. (2) “Artist’s rendering of Dorothy Angola.” Slavery in New York Curriculum Guide (New York: New-York Historical Society, 2005). (3) Johannes Vermeer, Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, ca. 1662. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Marquand Collection, Gift of Henry G. Marquand, 1889. (4) Baroness Anne-Marguerite-Henriette Hyde de Neuville, Oneida Family, 1807. New-York Historical Society.

Sample Activities

  • Women, Conquest, and Encomiedas in the Spanish Colonies
  • Women and Economic Power in the Dutch Colonies
  • Women and the Rule of Law in the English Colonies
  • Women, Religion, and Social Freedom in the French Colonies
  • Rethinking the Narrative: Lived Experiences of Women in the American Colonies
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