Molly Brant

Molly Brant
Three Faces of Molly Brant.jpg
"The Three Faces of Molly Brant" (Iroquois, European, Loyalist): 1986 design used by Canada Post in a commemorative postage stamp
Bornc. 1736 or 1735
Canajoharie on the south bank of the Mohawk River, or Ohio River Valley
Died(1796-04-16)April 16, 1796
Resting placeSt. Paul's Anglican Church, Kingston
Other namesMary Brant, Konwatsi'tsiaienni, Degonwadonti
Spouse(s)Sir William Johnson
ChildrenPeter Warren Johnson (1759–1777),
seven others
RelativesJoseph Brant, brother
Mary Brant Signature.svg

Molly Brant (c. 1736 – April 16, 1796 in Mohawk), also known as Mary Brant, Konwatsi'tsiaienni, and Degonwadonti, was influential in New York and Canada in the era of the American Revolution. Living in the Province of New York, she was the consort of Sir William Johnson, the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, with whom she had eight children. Joseph Brant, who became a Mohawk leader and war chief, was her younger brother.

After Johnson's death in 1774, Brant and her children left Johnson Hall in Johnstown, New York and returned to her native village of Canajoharie, further west on the Mohawk River. A Loyalist during the American Revolutionary War, she migrated to British Canada, where she served as an intermediary between British officials and the Iroquois.[1] After the war, she settled in what is now Kingston, Ontario. In recognition of her service to the Crown, the British government gave Brant a pension and compensated her for her wartime losses, including a grant of land. When the British ceded their former colonial territory to the United States, most of the Iroquois nations were forced out of New York. A Six Nations Reserve was established in what is now Ontario.

Since 1994, Brant has been honored as a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada. She was long ignored or disparaged by historians of the United States, but scholarly interest in her increased in the late 20th century. She has sometimes been controversial, criticized for being pro-British at the expense of the Iroquois. Known to have been a devout Anglican, she is commemorated on April 16 in the calendar of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church (USA). No portraits of her are known to exist; an idealized likeness is featured on a statue in Kingston and on a Canadian stamp issued in 1986.

Early life

Little is known for certain about Molly Brant's early life.[2] Named Mary, but commonly known as "Molly", she was born around 1736, possibly in the Mohawk village of Canajoharie, or perhaps further west in the Ohio Country.[3] Her parents were Christian Mohawks. French Jesuit missionaries had converted many Mohawk to Catholicism in their early colonial years. By the mid-18th century, however, English influence had grown in New York. Christian Mohawk tended to realign as Anglicans.[4] Brant may have been the child named Mary who was christened at the chapel at Fort Hunter, near the Lower Castle, another Mohawk village, on April 13, 1735. If so, her parents were named Margaret and Cannassware.[4][5] Most historians believe that her father was named Peter. Joseph Brant, born in 1743, was Molly's brother or half-brother.[4][5]

Joseph Brant, Molly's younger brother, in 1786

One of Molly's Mohawk names, perhaps her birth name, was Konwatsi'tsiaienni, which means "Someone Lends Her a Flower". Her other Mohawk name, given to her at adulthood in a customary mark of passage, was Degonwadonti, meaning "Two Against One".[6] Her Mohawk names have been spelled in a variety of ways in historical records.

The Mohawk are one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois League and occupied the most eastern territory of the confederacy. At the time of the American Revolutionary War, they lived primarily in the Mohawk River valley in what is now upstate New York, west of what developed as colonial Albany and Schenectady. At some point, either before or after her birth, Molly's family moved west to the Ohio Country, which the Iroquois had reserved as a hunting ground since the late 17th century.

After Molly's father died, her family returned to Canajoharie. On September 9, 1753, Molly's mother married Brant Kanagaradunkwa, a Mohawk sachem of the Turtle clan.[7][Note 1] Possibly to reinforce their connection to Brant Kanagaradunkwa, who was a prominent leader, Molly and Joseph took their stepfather's name as a surname, which was unusual for that time.[2]

Molly Brant was raised in a Mohawk culture that had absorbed some influences from their Dutch and English trading partners during a period of extended contact. [2] In Canajoharie, the Brants lived in a substantial colonial-style frame house and used many European household goods.[8] The family attended the Church of England. Molly was fluent in Mohawk and English. It is not clear whether she was formally educated or whether she could read and write. There are several letters signed "Mary Brant", but these may have been dictated by Molly and written by someone else. A letter from 1782 is signed with "her mark", indicating that she may have been only semi-literate.[9]

In 1754, Molly accompanied her stepfather and a delegation of Mohawk elders to Philadelphia, where the men were to discuss a fraudulent land sale with colonial leaders.[2] The party traveled to Albany, where an English officer, Captain Staats Long Morris, nephew of Governor Lewis Morris of Pennsylvania, met and fell in love with Brant.[10] She was then about nineteen years old and described as "pretty likely", meaning "good looking".[11]

Other Languages
català: Mary Brant
Deutsch: Mary Brant
français: Molly Brant
svenska: Mary Brant