Amelia Stone Quinton and the Women's National Indian Association
A Legacy of Indian Reform
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
The WNIA, which Quinton cofounded with Mary Lucinda Bonney in 1879, was organized expressly to press for a “more just, protective, and fostering Indian policy,” but also to promote the assimilation of the Indian through Christianization and “civilization.” Charismatic and indefatigable, Quinton garnered support for the WNIA’s work by creating strong working relationships with leaders of the main reform groups, successive commissioners of Indian affairs, secretaries of the interior, and prominent congressmen. The WNIA’s powerful network of friends formed a hybrid organization: religious in its missionary society origins but also political, using its powers to petition and actively address public opinion. Mathes follows the organization as it evolved from its initial focus on evangelizing Indian women—and promoting Victorian society’s ideals of “true womanhood”—through its return to its missionary roots, establishing over sixty missionary stations, supporting physicians and teachers, and building houses, chapels, schools, and hospitals.
With reference to Quinton’s voluminous writings—including her letters, speeches, and newspaper articles—as well as to WNIA literature, Mathes draws a complex picture of an organization that at times ignored traditional Indian practices and denied individual agency, even as it provided dispossessed and impoverished people with health care and adequate housing. And at the center of this picture we find Quinton, a woman and reformer of her time.
“This biography of Amelia Stone Quinton distills Valerie Sherer Mathes’s mastery of the subject into a story of one of the foremost activists in the Indian reform movement. Mathes both places Quinton’s work in its historical context and remains critical of the WNIA and its assumptions and goals.”—Thomas John Lappas, author of In League against King Alcohol: Native American Women and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, 1874–1933
“Valerie Sherer Mathes reveals Quinton to be a master organizer, publicist, investor, and political strategist who spent years at the helm of a highly influential national women’s association. Quinton was by turns driven, flawed, uncompromising, and sympathetic. Mathes’s detailed depiction paints Quinton as a paragon of the middle-class Protestant idealism of her time, as forward-thinking as she was culturally entrenched—in other words, Mathes gives her the fully human treatment due an exceptional woman in U.S. history.”—Jane Simonsen, author of Making Home Work: Domesticity and Native American Assimilation in the American West, 1860–1920