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History Speaks in ‘Voices of Cherokee Women’

Carolyn Ross Johnston edited Voices of Cherokee Women, which recounts hundreds of years of Cherokee history through primary documents such as letters, diary entries, oral history transcriptions and newspaper articles.  These documents vividly demonstrate how events such as the arrival of European missionaries, the Trail of Tears and the Civil War affected Cherokee women.

Carolyn Ross Johnston is a Florida history professor who grew up in Bradley County.  Recently, she visited Chattanooga and spoke with WUTC’s Michael Edward Miller.

From the publisher:

Voices of Cherokee Women features 52 accounts by Cherokee women—including letters, diaries, newspaper articles, oral histories, ancient myths—and by travelers, traders, and missionaries who encountered the Cherokees.

Among the stories told by these “voices” are those of Rebecca Neugin being carried as a child on the Trail of Tears; Mary Stapler Ross seeing her beautiful Rose Cottage burned to the ground during the Civil War; Hannah Hicks watching as marauders steal her food and split open her beds, scattering the feathers in the wind; and girls at the Cherokee Female Seminary studying the same curriculum as women at Mount Holyoke.

Carolyn Ross Johnston’s purpose in compiling Voices of Cherokee Women was to “give voice to the voiceless.” Often, Cherokee women’s history has been erased in traditional narratives. This book seeks to correct that by celebrating their special vantage point. “I wanted to share these very rare accounts in order to honor their memory and history,” Johnston says.

The book features accounts of Cherokee women from the Eastern Band of Cherokees and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. The collection of primary sources is richly textured, covers a large period of time, and represents both elite, highly acculturated Cherokee women and traditional women.