Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sesqui-what? Nebraska's 150th and Nebraska Women

A footnote from history by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Sesquicentennial: A word that would stump many a spelling bee contestant ... and the thing my home state is celebrating this year. Because Nebraska history fuels much of my historical fiction, the 150th anniversary holds special meaning for me.  Nebraska will officially be 150 years old on March 1, 2017.

Three amazing women who played significant roles in Nebraska history:

Susette La Flesche Tibbles (Inshata Theumba or Bright Eyes), who "learned the legends, songs, sacred ceremonies, and ancient wisdom of the Omaha people in her grandmother's earth lodge, was educated in the East by missionary friends, and then returned to the reservation to teach. Along with her brother and her future husband Thomas Tibbles, Susette campaigned for Native rights in the case of Ponca Chief Standing Bear. She testified before Senate committees and was feted at the White House. In a day when women had no political rights, Susette La Flesche Tibbles challenged the United States government and won a measure of justice for the Ponca. She went on to lecture in England and fought for Native citizenship.

Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first Native American woman to become a physician in the United States. After graduating from the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, she returned to the reservation and practice medicine there until 1894. In 1913, she founded the reservation hospital that bears her name. 

Luna Kellie, who became State Secretary of the Nebraska Farmers Alliance (while raising eleven children on the farm) and published an alliance newsletter on a borrowed portable printing press poised on her kitchen table. Kellie was invited to speak at an alliance conference and was an outspoken on behalf of rural reform movements. She was also active in the Temperance Movement of the Methodist Church and, when she was a widow in her 80s, homesteaded alone near Phoenix, AZ. 

I love learning about Nebraska women--especially the largely forgotten ones who formed aid societies across the state to shelter the homeless, build parsonages, feed the hungry, buy hymnals, support missionaries, nurse the wounded, etc. Their tireless efforts inspire me--and challenge me to be part of making the world a better place. 

Happy Birthday, Nebraska! 
Here's to 150 more years of incredible women. 


Stephanie Grace Whitson's life as a fiction author began over 20 years ago when she was inspired by the lives of Nebraska's pioneer women. 

Her novel Karyn's Memory Box tells the story of German mail order bride, Karyn Ensinger Ritter, a sod house homemaker who marries a stranger and then must cope with life in a place that is, in comparison to her home in Germany, a desert. 

Find it here:

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. It's always nice when a state or local area celebrates a Sesquicentennial. Celebrating the Sesuicentennial about Abraham Lincoln in our local area had a lot of different events and history gained by all in attendance. Thank you for sharing and enjoy all the celebrations in Nebraska.