A Lenape among the Quakers: The Life of Hannah Freeman Info

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On July 28, 1797, an elderly Lenape woman stood before the
newly appointed almsman of Pennsylvania’s Chester County and
delivered a brief account of her life. In a sad irony, Hannah Freeman
was establishing her residency—a claim that paved the way for her
removal to the poorhouse. Ultimately, however, it meant the final
removal from the ancestral land she had so tenaciously maintained. Thus
was William Penn’s “peaceable kingdom”
preserved. 

A Lenape among the Quakers
reconstructs Hannah Freeman’s history, traveling from the days of
her grandmothers before European settlement to the beginning of the
nineteenth century. The story that emerges is one of persistence and
resilience, as “Indian Hannah” negotiates life with the
Quaker neighbors who employ her, entrust their children to her, seek out
her healing skills, and, when she is weakened by sickness and age, care
for her. And yet these are the same neighbors whose families have
dispossessed hers. Fascinating in its own right, Hannah Freeman’s
life is also remarkable for its unique view of a Native American woman
in a colonial community during a time of dramatic transformation and
upheaval. In particular it expands our understanding of colonial history
and the Native experience that history often renders silent.


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