Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 6:4 (Fall 1986). Copyright © 1986 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Glenda Riley, professor of history at the University of Northern Iowa, has long been interested in documenting women's role in settling the West. Author of Frontierswomen, The Iowa Experience and numerous articles on western women's history, Riley breaks new ground in Women and Indians on the Frontier by focusing upon westering white women's attitudes toward and relationships with American Indians. Riley presents an interesting and controversial thesis, one that some western history scholars will challenge. After studying more than one hundred fifty westering women's diaries, log books, memoirs, and letters and an equal number of westering men's records, she concludes that attitudes of white men and white women toward American Indians differed. Although men and women equally displayed anti-Indian prejudices before starting the westward journey, having been saturated with exaggerated tales of Indian savagery, only women modified their perceptions of Indians to any considerable degree after prolonged contact with them in the West.