REBECCA J. HERRING
The Creation of Indian Farm Women: Field Matrons and Acculturation on the Kiowa-Comanche Reservation, 1895-1906
"No uncivilized people are elevated till the mothers are reached. The civilization must begin in the homes." 1 With these words penned in 1889, Merial A. Dorchester, Special Agent in the Indian School Service, recommended that "provision be made by congress for the appointment of 'field matrons' whose business it shall be to visit the Indian families and teach the mothers to cook, to make and mend garments, to elevate the homes, and thus make helpful dwelling places." 2 Her suggestion was accepted, for within two years the United States House of Representatives appropriated funds for the new Indian Service position of Field Matron. 3 By 1895, Field Matron Lauretta Ballew was at work on the Kiowa-Comanche Indian Reservation in southwestern Oklahoma Territory helping to create Indian farm women. 4
What motivated the United States government to initiate this policy of female Indian adult education during the last decade of the nineteenth century? What type of Anglo women would agree to live alone among an unfamiliar, and often feared, people? How did these women perceive the Indians among whom they went to work? What were their duties, and were they carried out? And finally, did this educational work bring the desired results? As is true of most historical questions, these have no simple answers. In the following explora
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Publication information: Book title: At Home on the Range:Essays on the History of Western Social and Domestic Life. Contributors: John R. Wunder - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1985. Page number: 39.
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