“Marsh makes commendable use of the scant documentary evidence to piece together Hannah Freeman’s life. Her painstaking efforts to give Hannah a voice are impressive.” ―Thomas Britten, The Historian
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 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 Freeman’s history, 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. Yet these are the same neighbors whose families then dispossess her own.
Fascinating in its own right, Freeman’s life is also remarkable as a unique account 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.
“With great insight and sensitivity, Dawn Marsh has pieced together Hannah Freeman’s story. All who have ever wondered what happened to Pennsylvania’s Native people should read this book.”—Nancy Shoemaker, author of A Strange Likeness: Becoming Red and White in Eighteenth-Century North America
“Using the closely examined life of a single eighteenth-century Native American woman, Dawn Marsh convincingly challenges Pennsylvania’s claim to a more just and humane treatment of its indigenous peoples, persuasively contending that Native Americans adopted complex strategies to preserve their cultural heritage, and explores the significance of the continuing mythology of ‘Indian Hannah’ Freeman—all in a good read.”—Melton McLaurin, author of Celia, A Slave
“Marsh makes commendable use of the scant documentary evidence to piece together Hannah Freeman’s life. Her painstaking efforts to give Hannah a voice are impressive.” Thomas Britten, The Historian