WOMEN OF THE DAWN, by Bunny McBride, University of Nebraska Press, 1999

    Literary award winner, Friends of American Writers

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Women of the Dawn tells the stories of four remarkable Wabanaki Indian women who lived in northeast America during the four centuries that devastated their traditional world. Their courageous responses to tragedies brought on by European contact make up the heart of this book.

The narrative begins with Molly Mathilde, a mother, peacemaker, and the daughter of a famous chief. Born in the mid-1600s, when Wabanakis first experienced the full effects of colonial warfare, disease, and displacement, she provided a vital link for her people through marriage to the French baron of St. Castin. The saga continues with the shrewd and legendary healer Molly Ockett and the reputed witchwoman Molly Molasses. The final chapter belongs to Molly Dellis Nelson (known as Spotted Elk), a celebrated performer on European stages who lived to see the dawn of Wabanaki cultural renewal.

Combined, these brief biographies tell the long saga of colonization from the rare vantage point of women. They wed fact with feeling, and each story is a step in a spiritual pilgrimage from innocence to shrewdness to bitterness to wisdom. The journey is represented metaphorically by linking each life to a particular season--the bountiful ease of summer, the foreboding of fall, the destitution of winter, the promise of spring.

"Rich in historic and visual detail, Women of the Dawn gives poignant and compelling voice to long silent Native American women. . . . The book evokes powerful and haunting emotions." Jill E. Shibles, president, National American Indian Court Judges Association.

"Penobscot Women, like all Wabanaki women, have long been the guardians of their people. The four women profiled by McBride possessed energy and power that strengthened and sustained them. They changed the lives of those with whom they came in contact. A rare glimpse of these women can be seen within the pages of this book." Donna M. Loring, Penobscot tribal representative to the Maine state legislature.

"I was enthralled by the passion and perserverance of the four Women of the Dawn whose courageous spirits ensured the survival of tribal lifestyles and values." Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, author of   Completing the Circle.


"A prose poem of beauty and honesty. . . . McBride gives us a real feeling for the lives, aspirations and achievements of Wabanaki women." Portland Press Herald

"This is a mournful book, something I had not expected. I had enthusiastically jumped into the stories of these women, hoping to know them, to understand their courage, their renown. But as soon as the dawn of these women included Europeans, the trajectory couldn’t be anything but tragic. What I did come to understand, somewhere in the first chapter, was my naiveté in assuming their lives would be otherwise. . . . While McBride acknowledges the tragedy of the women, she looks beyond the darkness of night into the dawn." Maine Times

"A welcome, informative, and valued contribution to Native American studies, women's studies, and American history reading lists." Midwest Book Review

"When a book comes along that has something to say about culture, heritage, identity, and personal crisis, and also manages to tell a pretty powerful story, people will take notice. This should be especially true, then of Women of the Dawn, which tells four such stories rolled into one." Penobscot Times