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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

Fox Gender Roles

Editor's Note:

Rev. Marsh made no diary entry on this date, so we have inserted here his three-page description of Fox gender roles that immediately follows the entry of Aug. 5. In their division of labor the Fox were typical of Eastern Woodland tribes, in which most women performed nearly all the important tasks of daily life while most men hunted game and defended the community against its enemies.

[Aug 6, 1834]

The Industry of Ah-pen-oos's Band

Since I arrived here in the month of April they have built their village which consists of 8 lodges all of peeled bark, and one over 100 feet in length; prepared their planting ground, and planted, and have made in their hunts about 20 packs of deer and other skins, each pack containing 30 skins, besides furs in all amounting to about 600 dollars. Skins are sold at 30 cts per lb in St. Louis. They have 70 or 80 horses.

They rise in the village, since I have been here, by sun-rise and during the remainder of the day the women generally [are] very industrious, and are always employed in making mats, dressing skins, making sacks, and all such articles of domestic use as they wear, such as moccasins, leggings, etc. Besides these things, they get all of the wood for cooking etc which is done with great labor for they have to cross the Des M[oines river] and bring it over in a canoe, and then up a steep bank to the lodges, which are 12 or 15 rods from the bank, upon their backs. They bring all of the corn etc from the fields which is eaten and they are about 2 miles distant across the river. In short, they perform all of the hard labor much as the man ought; all of the packing & carrying etc they must perform.

But the men whilst in their village spend their time, some in playing cards, others in fixing their ornaments, which are of various kinds & very fantastical such as vanity and pride, with a little refinement of taste, invent. Much of the time is spent in smoking and lounging upon couches or in going from lodge to lodge telling stories or in trifling conversation. About every day whilst they have anything there is a feast and sometimes two or three in a day. They concern themselves but little with the affairs of the other sex and as a general thing associate but little with them, They have frequent dances of various kinds, for which they take great pains to prepare, ornament, and paint themselves. In these the women seldom join, & the men both young & old who have been successful in war appear in their best dress as well as painted with vermillion, indigo and yellow clay all over their bodies, which are not covered with some ornament.

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