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Cherokee Women in Resistance and Activism: Valleytowns to the Voting Booth

03/10/2022 @ 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM


Join the Western North Carolina Historical Association (WNCHA) Thursday, March 10 from 6-7PM as we bring you this live Zoom webinar. This event will be recorded.

This presentation will focus on a period spanning from the 1830s through the 20th century. While the forced removal of the Cherokee people took place during the winter of 1838-1839, some Cherokees managed to remain in Western North Carolina. This was a time of uncertainty, hardships, challenges, and instability. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians had not yet coalesced into the entity it is today. Cherokee society was traditionally based on matrilineages. During the centralization of the Cherokee Nation to meet the threat of their dispossession from their lands, clans underwent immense transformations in gender roles and power. Cherokee women’s influence ebbed during this time as their male kin became more prominent.

Cherokee women who remained in the Valleytowns after the Removal rose to the challenge of survival by fostering Cherokee values of resistance, persistence, and resilience. Many Cherokees suffered greatly in those years, but women held their families together and helped to rebuild their lives, some as the head of their household. Not many accounts exist, but the few that do reveal the importance of these women who were mostly invisible to the larger society.

This presentation will allow a glimpse into the world of the Cherokee woman and her roles in the 19th through the 20th centuries. It will follow the Cherokee woman from her determination to rebuild her family’s lives post-Removal to the growing activism of Cherokee women in the community and tribe, all the way to the voting booth as an American citizen.


About the Presenter:

Historian Susan Abram (PhD, Auburn) teaches at Western Carolina University and is an executive officer in the North Carolina Trail of Tears Association which works with the National Park Service to interpret the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. She also serves on the Planning Committee for the National Trail of Tears Conference to be held in Cherokee in September.

Abram was a presenter at the “‘You Have to Start a Thing’: North Carolina Women Breaking Barriers.” Symposium Examining the History of Women’s Agency, Voice, and Scope in Western North Carolina in 2019 at Pack Memorial Library in Asheville. Previously, she presented “Hidden in Plain View: Valleytown Cherokee Women in the Removal Era, 1819-1842” to the Southern Association of Women Historians in 2018. Her current research on Valleytown Cherokee women spans the Removal era to achieving woman’s suffrage on the Qualla Boundary, and their continued community activism.

Prior to this, Sue’s book Forging a Cherokee-American Alliance in the Creek War: From Creation to Betrayal won the 2013 McMillan Prize in Southern History from the University of Alabama Press. This book examines Cherokee masculinity, its role in the Red Stick War, and how it shaped Cherokee leadership resistance to Removal.


Tickets: $5 for WNCHA members/ $10 for General Admission. We also have no-cost, community-funded tickets available. We want our events to be accessible to as many people as possible. If you are able please consider making a donation along with your ticket purchase. These donations are placed in our Community Fund, which allows us to offer tickets at no cost to those who would not be able to attend otherwise.

Viewing: Registrants will receive a Zoom link with which to view the program. It will also be recorded and later available on our website.

This event is co-sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UNC Asheville.

(Images: American Agriculturalist (September 1883), 409; “Cherokee Indians Entering New Era: Old Order on Western North Carolina Reservation Will Change Early in October When Young Chief Takes Hold,” Greensboro Daily News, September n.d., 12A. From Museum of the Cherokee Indian Archives, 1987.128.001)


Western North Carolina Historical Association received an American Rescue Plan Humanities Grant from North Carolina Humanities, Funding for this grant was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan Act economic stabilization plan. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of North Carolina Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Western North Carolina Historical Association (WNCHA)