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Texas Women's History Month: Wynema, A Child of the Forest

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When she was 23, Sophie Alice Callahan wrote the first novel by an American Indian woman, titled Wynema, A Child of the Forest. The book tells the story of a Creek girl and her teacher, an Anglo woman from the South. Callahan used the cross-cultural friendship between the two women to educate Anglo readers about the rights of Native Americans and of women. The book highlights the women’s opinions about the suffrage movement and the painful realities of U.S. Indian policies, like the effects of the Dawes Act and the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee.

Callahan was a member of the Creek, or Muscogee, nation, and the daughter of an Anglo mother and a prominent Muscogee tribal leader. In the 1890s, she taught at the Wealaka Mission School and at Harrell Institute, both in Indian Territory. She planned to open her own school upon completing her education, but she died of pleurisy in 1894, at the age of 26.

Wynema was republished in 1997, making it available to a new century of readers.

This month, KUT is partnering with the Ruthe Winegarten Foundation to celebrate Women's History Month. Every day, we'll bring you a short feature spotlighting a historic woman, movement, or group of women in Texas.

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