Some Women in the Indian Wars
by Edward Eggleston
When white people first came to this country, they had much trouble
with the Indians. After a while, when they had learned to defend
themselves and got used to danger, they did not mind it much. Even the
women became as brave as soldiers.
In very early times there were some families of people from Sweden
living not far from where Philadelphia now stands. One day the women
were all together boiling soap. It was the custom then to make soap at
home. Water was first poured through ashes to make lye. People put
this lye into a large kettle, and then threw into it waste pieces of
meat and bits of fat of all kinds. After boiling a long time, this
mixture made a kind of soft soap, which was the only soap the early
settlers had. The large kettle in which the soap was boiled was hung
on a pole. This pole was held up by two forked sticks driven into the
ground. A fire was kept burning under the kettle. Of course, this soap
boiling took place out of doors.
Some Indians, creeping through the woods, saw the women together
without any men. They thought it a good chance to kill them or make
them prisoners; but the women caught sight of the Indians, and ran
away to their little church. The churches in that day were often built
so they could be used for forts. The church to which these women ran
was one of this kind. But the women had no guns with them. They knew
that when they got into the church they would have nothing to fight
with. So two of them took hold of the ends of the pole on which the
kettle of boiling soap was hanging, and carried the kettle into the
little church with them.
The Indians tried to get into the church, but every time an Indian
climbed up to get in, a woman would just dip up a ladleful of boiling
soap, and dash it on him. This was a kind of fighting the Indians did
not like. They were not used to soap in any form. So, when an Indian
was scalded by the soap, he would run away in great pain, and not try
it again. The next Indian that came got some of the same hot medicine.
He also would have to go away to cool off, if he could.
Blowing a Conch Shell.
While some of the women were watching the Indians, and fighting them
with hot soap, one of them took up a dinner horn and blew it. This
dinner horn was made of a great shell called a conch shell. The tip of
a conch shell was sawed off so as to make a hole in it. By blowing
into this hole, a very loud noise could be made. Such horns were used
in that day to call people to dinner, and to call the neighbors when
there was any danger. The woman blew the conch-shell horn, and kept on
The men who were away in the woods heard the sound of the horn. They
knew that something was wrong, because the horn was blowing when it
was not dinner time. Either a house was on fire or the Indians had
come. The men took up their guns and hurried toward the little church.
When the Indians saw the men coming, they ran away.
There was a woman in Massachusetts named Bradley. She had once been a
prisoner among the Indians. She lived in a blockhouse which had a high
fence of posts set up close together all round it to keep the Indians
out. Such a fence was called a stockade. One day Mrs. Bradley was
boiling soap. The gate of the stockade had been left open a little
way. Suddenly she saw an Indian, with war paint on his face and his
tomahawk in his hand, rushing in at the gate. The Indian thought it
would be an easy thing to kill Mrs. Bradley. But the woman was too
quick for him. She dashed a ladle of boiling soap upon him before he
could run away. The soap was so hot that the Indian was killed by it.
The Indians came once more to take Mrs. Bradley. This time, not having
any soap, she got a gun and shot the foremost one dead. The rest ran
In King Philip's War the Indians tried to take the town of Hadley. The
men of the town fought hard, but the Indians were getting the best of
the battle. A little cannon had been sent from Boston. It reached
Hadley while the battle was going on. As all the men were busy
fighting, the women loaded the cannon themselves. First they put in
powder, and then small shot and nails. When the cannon was loaded, the
women took it to the men, who pointed it into the thickest of the
crowd of Indians, and fired it. A hail-storm of nails was a new thing
to the Indians. Those who were not killed ran away very much
There was a young girl in Maine who was in a house when the Indians
attacked it. She held the door shut until thirteen women and children
could get out of the house by the back door, and pass into a
blockhouse, which is a kind of fort. The Indians beat down the door at
last, and then knocked down the brave girl behind it, but they did not
Sometimes the Indians attacked a blockhouse when there were none but
women in it. In such cases the women would put on hats, and fix their
hair so as to look like men. Then they would use their guns well. The
savages, thinking there were men in the place, would go away.
There was one girl who was a captive among the Indians for three weeks.
One day she saw a horse running loose in the woods. She stripped some
tough bark from a tree, and made a bridle of it. Then she caught the
horse, and put her bark bridle on him. It was just growing dark when
she climbed on his bare back, for she had no saddle. She turned the
horse's head toward the settlements, and rode hard all night. The next
morning she was safe among her friends.