Promise and Disillusionment in the Shape of a Woman: Conquistadors in Florida and New France, A Comparative Perspective

In: Journal of Early American History

The purpose of this study is to provide greater insight into the power of native women as understood by sixteenth century North American conquistadors by juxtaposing two analogous but geographically distinct settings. Depictions of women in New France by Jacques Cartier, Samuel Champlain and their followers in the northern borderlands of North America are compared to those depictions made by Hernando de Soto, Pedro Menendez de Avilés and their contemporaries during the same general period in the southern borderlands (Florida). The accounts of these figures, who came from varied backgrounds and promoted differing world views, provide evidence for the earliest foundations of the “imperial gaze” in reference to distant poles along North America's eastern seaboard. They also demonstrate the key role that native women played in orchestrating intercultural encounters with conquistadors during the sixteenth century.

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