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Gender, Race, and Power in the Indian Reform Movement

Revisiting the History of the WNIA
Edited by Valerie Sherer Mathes



Founded in the late nineteenth century, the Women’s National Indian Association was one of several reform associations that worked to implement the government’s assimilation policy directed at Native peoples. The women of the WNIA combined political action with efforts to improve health and home life and spread Christianity on often remote reservations. During its more than seventy-year history, the WNIA established over sixty missionary sites in which they provided Native peoples with home-building loans, founded schools, built missionary cottages and chapels, and worked toward the realization of reservation hospitals.

Gender, Race, and Power in the Indian Reform Movement reveals the complicated intersections of gender, race, and identity at the heart of Indian reform. This collection of essays offers a new interpretation of the WNIA’s founding, arguing that the WNIA provided opportunities for Indigenous women, creates a new space in the public sphere for white women, and reveals the WNIA’s role in broader national debates centered on Indian land rights and the political power of Christian reform.

Contributor Bios
Valerie Sherer Mathes is a professor emerita of history at City College of San Francisco. Her published books include The Women’s National Indian Association: A History (UNM Press).