For the Huron and Montagnais, two of the native peoples in the New World, the value and power of women and men in their societies were equally balanced: but in the years from 1620 to 1650 all this changed. In this short period, the Huron and Montagnais experienced massive disruption because of European disease, warfare, famines and the introduction of the fur trade by Europeans. Change also came about because Christian missionaries were intent on converting the native people to Christianity. A major result of these events was the subjugation of women. Using Huron and Montagnais as case examples, Karen Anderson investigates how relations of subjugation and domination between men and women were introduced into egalitarian societies following the destruction of their cultures. She challenges the view that women have always and everywhere been subjugated to men, and argues that domination and the social institutions that support it are both socially and historically specific.
Taking in such topics as seventeenth century Christian doctrine on men, women and their inter-relations, the political economy of the Huron and their cultural practices, and the construction and expression of subjectivity, she explores the complex relationship between social structure, social meaning and individual consciousness, and the part they played between men and women.
"At the outset of "Chain Her By One Foot, Anderson poses two analytical goals: to explain the dramatic change of Huron and Montagnais women's status in the thirty years after the arrival of the French and, more generally, to confront the theoretical problem of identifying the causes of women's subordination. The book clearly succeeds in the first task and contributes to other work on the second, more difficult one."