Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 4, Fall 2008, pp. 331-32.
In Beloved Women, Sarah Eppler Janda offers an important and provocative analysis of the political lives of two American Indian leaders in Oklahoma and national politics. Janda uses primary documents, interviews, and secondary sources to examine the nexus between race (Indianness) and gender (feminism) and the acquisition and use of political power by LaDonna Harris and Wilma Mankiller.
Janda organizes the book into three parts. The first devotes two chapters to developing the primary constructs used in the study (image, identity, political activism, and the intersection of feminism and Indianness) for LaDonna Harris. Chapters 3 and 4 (part 2) do essentially the same thing for Wilma Mankiller. Within the context of the study, feminism is defined as a belief in the equality of men and women. Indianness, a more elusive concept, as Janda explains, is concerned with various components of Indian identity, such as cultural beliefs, heritage, and self- and group-identification. Within Cherokee history, the term "beloved woman" is synonymous with "war woman" and was reserved for older women who distinguished themselves in battle and thus earned elevated status in the tribe. Clearly, in terms of politics, the first four chapters show how LaDonna Harris, born to a white father and Comanche mother and later married to white U.S. Senator Fred R. Harris, and Wilma Mankiller, born to a Cherokee father and white mother, overcame poverty and racism to become "beloved women."