Christine Nyholm


When reading a book about her mother’s family, Christine Nyholm discovered that one of her direct ancestors, though eleven generations removed, was killed and his wife and children were taken captive. This knowledge inspired Christine to create a database of all known captives of the French and Indian Wars that refused to return to New England. Christine particularly enjoys traveling as part of the research process and exploring centuries-old archival records. She will soon graduate with a History degree and a minor in Anthropology. Christine advises students who are pursuing historical research to get to know librarians who specialize in their particular field because they can often aid in locating difficult-to-find resources. triangle.gif (504 bytes)




Contemporary scholarship on the nature of power and the dynamics of gender permit a re-examination of captivity narratives, a 300-year old genre in North America. These theoretical insights reinvigorate the stories of capture and hardship as historical sources, giving them an appeal beyond simple colonial tales of adventure. Between 1689 and 1730, in the frontier areas of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, the French and English colonists periodically waged war against each other. Repeated flare-ups of hostilities occurred at the slightest provocation. Native Americans, allied with the French, raided New England settlements and took hundreds of civilian hostages, most of whom ended up in French colonial settlements, sojourning there while the war continued, and returning home when a truce was declared. However, a considerable number of the captives, mostly those taken as children, refused to return during interludes of peace. Most of the captives who refused to return were girls. This paper offers a new interpretation by arguing that women were offered more opportunities and potentially more independence in French colonial society than in New England, resulting in twice as many women as men choosing to remain permanently in New France. triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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Faculty Mentor                                                                                                                

Laura Mitchell

School of Humanities

Christine Nyholm successfully weaves together strands of social history and colonial politics to create a compelling narrative that illuminates the differences in women’s life experiences in New France and New England. This paper demonstrates that structures of colonial power shaped North American societies, but also emphasizes the ways in which individual agency exploited political tensions between competing colonies. The triangulation among New England, New France, and Native-American communities afforded some women the opportunity to create greater personal and economic liberty from a condition deemed “captive.” These conclusions ask us to reconsider the nature of power and to acknowledge the variety of strategies employed by subordinated people who sought to reconfigure the parameters of their daily lives. triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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