Margaret Davis Jacobs
June 1996, University of California, Davis Department of History
Order No. DA9706418.
At the turn of the century, Pueblo Indians encountered two very different
groups of white women -- female moral reformers and "new feminists."
Through the 1920s controversy over Indian dances and the Indian arts and
crafts movement, these white women sought to enforce their visions of
authentic Indianness upon the Pueblo Indians. The Pueblo Indians, in turn,
used these competing visions for their own purposes. As part of its
assimilation program, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) enlisted many
white women as schoolteachers and field matrons. Late 19th-century
dominant gender ideology held that morally superior, white, middle-class
women had a special mission to uplift other women to the standards of true
womanhood. Yet, many white women who worked among the Pueblo Indians
transmitted a more complicated message to the Indians. In the meantime,
other white women openly rebelled against the Victorian view of women as
sexually pure moral uplifters and instead championed women's individual
liberation. Many of these new feminists gravitated to New Mexico where
they began to question the BIA's assimilation policy and to popularize the
emerging anthropological theory of cultural relativism. The development
and popularization of cultural relativism can be linked to the upheaval in
late Victorian-era gender roles.
In the 1920s, female moral reformers and new feminists conflicted over the BIA's order to eliminate Indian dances. This controversy can be regarded, in part, as a battle over changing sexual mores in white society. White women on both sides of the debate also became involved in promoting Indian arts and crafts among Pueblo women. Through sponsoring Indian pottery and painting, new feminists in the movement sought to preserve Pueblo women's traditional roles. Moral reformers alternatively hoped to assimilate Pueblo women once and for all. Pueblo Indians also participated in both sides of the dance controversy, but to further their own aims. Likewise, they turned the Indian arts and crafts movement to their own ends, using it as a means to integrate more fully into the American economy while simultaneously strengthening ethnic boundaries around themselves.
It is possible to order the dissertation through University Microfilms. It may also be possible to borrow the dissertation directly from the University of California, Davis.
Margaret D. Jacobs
New Mexico State University