Ramona Days first appeared on March 1, 1887, as a quarterly publication of the Indian Department of the University of New Mexico. Published in the interests of the University's Ramona Industrial School for girls at Santa Fe, it was the outgrowth of a pamphlet that had appeared earlier describing the university's purpose and efforts in Indian education in the Southwest and reprinting commendations from government officials, newspaper editors, and other individuals. With "Deo et Pro Patria" as its motto, the quarterly was established to give "glimpses of life, work, progress, trials and successes in the Ramona Memorial School" as it pursued "its appointed work to civilize and raise to a higher life, by the power of a Christian and Industrial education, the future wives and mothers of our Apache tribes." The purpose for publishing such information was to raise funds for the school.
Ramona Industrial School had been established on April 1, 1885. Its students were boys and girls mainly from the Pueblos within a hundred miles of Santa Fe but also included a few Apaches. Because other schools, such as St. Catharine's School for Girls in Santa Fe, also worked actively among the Pueblos, the University of New Mexico chose to concentrate its efforts upon the Navajos and Apaches, principally the latter. Although the school continued to admit boys, the emphasis was upon the education of girls, for the educators believed, as the editor said, "The difficult problem of civilizing the Apache Indians will be most quickly solved by educating in a Christian way their girls, the future wives and mothers." Thus the school was named for the central character in Helen Hunt Jackson's popular novel of that decade, Ramona.