Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

John Blanton

Second Advisor

Alexandra E. Stern


environmental history, Long Island, New York, women, gender, environment, Indigenous, Puritan, Native, colonial


Inspired by the burgeoning field of environmental history, this study explores the relationship between women and the environment in the context of the Indigenous people and English Puritans of Long Island, New York during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Utilizing a “gendered-environmental” perspective addresses a dimension missing from the historiography of colonial America—that is, the intersection of gender and the environment. It reveals that the labor of Long Island’s women, both Indigenous and European, was instrumental to their communities, specifically because of their relationship to the natural world.  Indigenous women held great spiritual authority through their connections with spirits in nature, which they wielded in agriculture, wampum production, as powwaws or healers, or politically by leading as sunksquaws. Puritan women harnessed their gendered-environmental roles to excel in household management, ensuring their home economy was productive, their families never idle, their animals and farms fruitful. Women who administered a self-sufficient household could navigate their patriarchal society with significant agency. A gendered-environmental perspective also reveals that Long Island, as the setting for many dynamic cross-cultural encounters in the colonial and Atlantic world, is itself worthy of historical study.

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