A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison
  • Publication Date: November 3, 2022
  • ISBN: 9781554815777 / 1554815770
  • 180 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison

  • Publication Date: November 3, 2022
  • ISBN: 9781554815777 / 1554815770
  • 180 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison offers a remarkable perspective on eighteenth-century America. A white settler by birth, Mary Jemison was taken captive as a child in 1758 and adopted by two Seneca sisters. Refusing offers to return to settler society, she chose to spend the remainder of her life as a Seneca wife, mother, and respected community member. In 1823, the now-elderly Jemison shared her life story with white American writer James Seaver, who published it as a captivity narrative the following year. Conscious of the impacts of Seaver’s editorial hand, this edition foregrounds Jemison’s voice while also recentering Indigenous perspectives through an informative introduction and an illuminating selection of contextual materials.


“Like Mary Jemison’s Narrative itself, this much-needed edition resists a settler-focused analysis of Indigenous resistance and entangled colonial nation-states and epistemologies. Footnotes and editorial language peel back the layers of male settlers’ voices and editorial choices that attempt to package Jemison’s words and life and instead emphasize her identity as an adopted Seneca woman with deep ties to her chosen community. With contextual materials that connect the Narrative to histories of the Seneca’s displacement and continued ‘survivance,’ in the words of Gerald Vizenor, women’s captivity narratives, and sentimental fiction, this edition will allow educators to introduce this important text into discourses of both the long eighteenth century as a historical period and its impact on contemporary Anglo-American culture.” — Kate Ozment, Cal Poly Pomona

“This is a thoughtful edition of a captivity narrative which expands the scope of the form beyond the earlier Puritan accounts which are still predominately studied. A fascinating and widely read account of transculturation, this text offers rewarding teaching opportunities in women’s history, Indigenous, and settler-colonial studies. The editors provide important contextual materials to help navigate this complex and often ambiguous book. A valuable text to add to the literature of the contact zone.” — Robbie Richardson, Princeton University

A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison extends challenges in the classroom, as students must grapple with the mediated and intertextual nature of its seeming autobiographical framework—namely, James Seaver’s position as editor of Jemison’s life narrative. Willow White and Tiffany Potter offer an important and necessary entry-point within Haudenosaunee, and specifically Seneca, practices of kinship formation and adoption that seek to situate Jemison’s perspective—what they call her ‘doubled voice’—within ongoing nineteenth-century Indigenous survivance. In this, their edition importantly draws deeply from recent scholarly emphases in Native American and Indigenous Studies on extricating community- and nation-centered Indigenous critiques of settler expansion, dispossession and removal, and forced assimilation. In particular, the ‘In Context’ section of the edition beautifully foregrounds late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century Seneca perceptions on colonial history as counters to Seaver’s racialized rhetoric of Indigenous vanishing. I look forward to using this edition in my own teaching.” — Shelby Johnson, Oklahoma State University

“Thirty years after June Namias’s recovery of this important text, the Broadview edition reinforces the continued relevancy of the Jemison narrative to early U.S. literature, Native American literature, and women’s literature. Its timely republication builds on Jemison’s significance to contemporary considerations of intersectional identities, citizenship, and as-told-to narratives, and it builds from the earlier edition by providing new contextual documents such as crucial Seneca treaties, Seneca voices, comparative captivity narratives, and a discussion of interracial and Indigenous kinship. Most importantly, it demonstrates how recovery work can remain relevant and make a deep, lasting impact on the study of American literature.” — Amy Gore, North Dakota State University


  • Mary Jemison
  • A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison

A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison, Who was taken by the Indians, in the year 1755, when only about twelve years of age, and has continued to reside amongst them to the present time

In Context

  • Mary Jemison, Identity, and Indigenous Kinship
    • Henry K. Bush-Brown, images of the statue Mary Jemison (1910)
    • Artist unknown, Mary Jemison, the Captive (1892)
  • Seaver’s Understanding of Gender and Governance in Seneca Culture
    • from James E. Seaver, appendices to A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison (1824)
      • Of Their Government
      • Of Family Government
  • An Account of the End of Jemison’s Life
    • from James E. Seaver, William Seaver, and Ebenezer Mix, Deh-He-Wa-Mis: or A Narrative of the Life of Mary Jemison (1842, revised and expanded edition)
  • Seneca Voices: Sagoyewatha / Red Jacket and Gyantwahia / Cornplanter
    • On good-faith negotiation: Red Jacket at Philadelphia, 31 March 1792
    • On religion and colonial missionaries: the meeting with Jacob Cram, November 1805
    • On bad-faith negotiation: 1790 Philadelphia speech to George Washington
  • The Treaty of Fort Stanwix and the Treaty of Big Tree
    • The Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1784)
    • The Treaty of Big Tree (1797)
  • Excerpts from Earlier Narratives of Female Captives
    • from Mary Rowlandson, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, Together With the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed, Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682)
    • from Elizabeth Meader Hanson, God’s Mercy Surmounting Man’s Cruelty, Exemplified in the Captivity and Redemption of Elizabeth Hanson (1728)
  • A Fiction of Indigeneity
    • from James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 (1826)
  • Map 1: Genesee River Area
  • Map 2: New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio Locations

Tiffany Potter is Professor of Teaching in the Department of English Language and Literatures at the University of British Columbia. Willow White is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts & Humanities at the University of Alberta, Augustana.