Women in Canadian History: Mary Two-Axe Earley


At the age of 63, Mohawk Mary Two-Axe Earley got news that she was to be evicted from her house, a house that she
had inherited from her grandmother. “I was born on the Kahnawake reserve in
Quebec. I moved to Brooklyn when I was only 18. Later I married Edward. He was
Irish-American which meant that I “married out.” I was no longer Indian
according to the Indian Act. But who thought about status? We were in love.” Without her status, Mary couldn’t own the house she had inherited. She couldn’t own
land on the reserve, vote in band elections, or be buried with her people. This was the fate for any status Indian woman who married a non status or
non-Indigenous man. “This law relegated us to the status of nobodies.” She spent nearly two decades challenging the injustice: writing letters, giving speeches, criss-crossing the nation addressing decision makers and the public. Please, search your hearts and minds. Follow the dictates of your
conscience. Set my sisters free. She defended the principle that a woman’s identity is not defined by her husband. In 1985, the federal government amended
the Indian Act removing the clause that stripped status from women who married
non-status men. Then Minister of Indian Affairs David
Crombie wrote to Mary: “I could find no greater tribute to your long years of work than to let history record that you are the first person to have their
rights restored under the new legislation.” Due in great part to the work of Mary Two-Axe, tens of thousands of First Nations women and children regained their rights. She was called the grandmother of Canada’s Indian feminist movement, a legacy continued by young Indigenous feminists today.

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1 Response

  1. Nicki Dennis says:

    AWESOME and what a badass name to boot

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