Home > PublicationsEncyclopedia >  Callahan, Sophia Alice

CALLAHAN, SOPHIA ALICE (1868–1894).

Sophia Alice Callahan, who was considered the first American Indian woman novelist, was the daughter of Samuel Benton and Sarah Elizabeth Thornberg Callahan. Her father, one-eighth Muscogee, was prominent in Creek politics, edited the Indian Journal, and served as superintendent of the Methodist-sponsored Wealaka Boarding School. Born in Texas on January 1, 1868, Sophia Callahan attended the Wesleyan Female Institute in Staunton, Virginia. In 1891 she worked as editor of Our Brother in Red, a Methodist newspaper published at Muskogee, Indian Territory. During the 1890s she taught at the Wealaka Boarding School and Harrell International Institute.

Sophia Callahan's Wynema: A Child of the Forest (1891), a loosely constructed romantic novel, presents the story of a Creek girl named Wynema Harjo and her Methodist teacher, Genevieve Weir. As Weir learns about Creek life, the reader is introduced to American Indian traditions such as the Green Corn Festival and burial practices and to foods such as sofkey and blue dumplings. Woven into the work are contemporary issues ranging from women's rights to Indian land allotment and the massacre at Wounded Knee. By writing the novel, she hoped to bring attention to the plight of all American Indians.

Callahan planned to finish her studies in Virginia and open her own school in the Creek Nation. However, on January 7, 1894, at the age of twenty-six she died of pleurisy.

Linda D. Wilson

See also: ALEXANDER LAWRENCE POSEY, JOHN ROLLIN RIDGE

Bibliography

S. Alice Callahan, Wynema: A Child of the Forest, ed. A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff (1891; reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997).

Carolyn Thomas Foreman, "S. Alice Callahan: Author of Wynema: A Child of the Forest," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 33 (Autumn 1955).

Karen L. Kilcup, ed., Native American Women's Writing, c. 1800–1924: An Anthology (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 2000).

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society. This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia and part or in whole.

Photo credits: All photographs presented in the published and online Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture are the property of the Oklahoma Historical Society and are held in the agency's Research Division Photo Archives.


Citation

The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Linda D. Wilson, "Callahan, Sophia Alice," The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, www.okhistory.org (accessed October 21, 2017).

About the Encyclopedia | Terms of Use | Using the Encyclopedia