Added: November 1, 2014 – Last updated: June 6, 2015


Author: Jennifer Bailey

Title: Voicing Oppositional Conformity

Subtitle: Sarah Winnemucca and the Politics of Rape, Colonialism, and "Citizenship": 1870--1890

Thesis: M.A.Thesis, Portland State University

Year: 2012

Pages: v + 142pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 19th Century | U.S. History | Types: Interracial Rape


Link: PDXScholar (Free Access)

Link: ProQuest (Restricted Access)



Sarah Winnemucca, a Paiute Indian born around the year 1844, crossed cultural boundaries and became an influential voice within both white and Indian societies. This thesis employs a settler colonial framework that places the sexuality and rape of native women at the center of colonial relations in the settlement of the Americas. Viewed through this lens I perform an in-depth analysis of Winnemucca's gendered critique of colonialism that focused on sexual violence. Rather than the unstable, mixed messages of native resistance and assimilation emphasized by earlier scholars, I argue that Winnemucca purposefully employed a strategy of oppositional conformity to publicize an unwavering political message that championed Paiute sovereignty, exposed white cruelty, and re-wrote the dominant gendered, racial, political and cultural constructs that bound Native American women's identity.
The introduction begins with a brief history of Winnemucca's life and accomplishments. In the introduction I also address the authenticity of Winnemucca's published narrative, Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims (1883) and identify the constraints of the settler colonial lens through which I view Winnemucca's public voice. In chapter one I argue that Winnemucca's narrative employs the gendered moral rhetoric of the colonizer to cultivate white audience receptiveness, while simultaneously criticizing whites for their brutality against Indians. In chapter two I assert that Winnemucca employed multiple political strategies to cut away at Euro-American settlers' moral justifications for colonialism, and that she articulated a unique vision of Paiute "citizenship" that rejected complete Indian assimilation. In chapter three I highlight the ways in which Winnemucca used her public voice to articulate rape and the sexuality of Indian women as a foundational part of colonialism hidden from view in the media coverage of the Indian wars of the late nineteenth century. Unlike her biographers, who mostly overlook Winnemucca's public challenge to the negative sexual stereotypes that plagued Indian women during Winnemucca's lifetime, I argue that Indian women's sexuality was a foundational theme in Winnemucca's public discourse. Winnemucca grasped and resisted the gendered dimensions of colonialism and her consistent focus on this theme echoed in her lived reality. Finally, I conclude that ultimately personal accusations as well as her inability to escape the "heathen" identity forced on Indians by Christian reformers thwarted the success of Winnemucca's political message.« (Source: )


  Abstract (p. i)
  Dedication (p. iii)
  Acknowledgments (p. iv)
  Introduction (p. 1)
  Chapter One. Sarah Winnemucca's Oppositional Conformity (p. 11)
    Winnemucca's Public Voice During the Era of Assimilation (p. 13)
    Winnemucca Mobilizes "True Womanhood" Ideology (p. 19)
    Telling Her Story through Acceptable Personae (p. 21)
    Paiute Princess Ambassador Persona (p. 24)
    Paiute Mother Persona (p. 28)
    Humble Indian Woman Persona (p. 32)
    Moral Warrior Persona (p. 39)
    Conclusion (p. 42)
  Chapter Two. Opposing Colonialism, Revising Citizenship (p. 44)
    Opposing Colonialism: Critiques of "Civilization" and "Citizenship" (p. 46)
    Taking Citizenship East (p. 61)
    Middle Ground Citizenship, Gender, and Paiute Sovereignty (p. 66)
    Native Women's Role in English Language Literacy and Translation (p. 70)
    Conclusion (p. 76)
  Chapter Three. Resisting Gendered Violence: Struggles in the Public Sphere (p. 78)
    Lighting the Fire of Winnemucca's Activism (p. 81)
    Winnemucca Lectures in San Francisco (p. 88)
    Winnemucca Appeals to "The Great White Father" in Washington (p. 97)
    Boston: Winnemucca Meets Peabody (p. 103)
    Boston: Winnemucca's Political Opponents Attack Her Virtue (p. 108)
    Boston: Winnemucca Responds to Sexual Slander (p. 118)
    Conclusion (p. 126)
  Conclusion (p. 128)
  References (p. 133)
    Primary Sources (p. 133)
      Manuscript Material (p. 133)
      Books and Journal Articles (p. 133)
      Newspapers (p. 133)
    Secondary Sources (p. 135)
      Book and Journal Articles (p. 135)
      Websites (p. 142)

Wikipedia: Sarah Winnemucca