Before the interaction with the Spanish, Portuguese and English both Native women and African women were considerably powerful when it came to running their communities. It wasn’t until the Europeans settle in the Americas that the role of both changed pretty drastically. When it came to the lives of Native women they were very much involved in everything from working the fields to making things like mats and baskets that were used daily. The whole tribe’s well-being was heavily dependent on not only the work of the men but the work of the women.
In the case of the Ojibwas, the men were responsible for the hunting but it was the women who cured the meat and dressed skins. When it came to political matters the Native women had more rights and power than most of the European women of that time. The Pueblo had a matrilineal system, which meant through ancestry control of the land would be passed to the women. This solidified their importance in the community. Also, when married, men were the ones expected to leave their families to move in with their wife’s family.
Within the Iroquois clan, although the chief was also a man, they were chosen by women and they were also given the power to remove them if needed. Native American women also had sexual freedoms. They were allowed to leave the marriage, as were men, without punishment. They also were involved in many sexual rituals. Of course after the settlement of the Spanish and the Portuguese a lot of things change as far as the role of the Native women in the community.
In my opinion the women of West Africa had to deal with a much more dramatic change of scenery when the Europeans showed up. Pre-European influence African women were fairly powerful and independent. They were responsible for cultivating food and producing and weaving cloth. Lots of women were even involved in the trade roots. Women, such as Queen Amina even held the “thrown” of the Hausa Zazzau people. Although the Europeans view of African women has always been a negative one, the African slave trade made this much worse.