This thesis looks at the marginalization of American Indian women, specifically in mainstream media and social movements. It is estimated that at least 25% of American Indian women, between the ages of 15 to 44, were forcibly sterilized at Indian Health Service facilities during the 1970s. American Indian women were not the only targets of sterilization abuse; African American women and Latina women also had similar experiences. The public was more aware of these women’s experiences than those of American Indian women because the mainstream media was more likely to cover the involuntary procedures of women of color who initiated law suits.
American Indian women’s issues were present but insufficiently recognized not only in news coverage, but also in the American Indian and feminist social movements’ agendas. American Indian women played an active role in the American Indian movement, but it was ultimately dominated by men and didn’t focus on female concerns. Hence the creation of Women of all Red Nations (WARN), which was intended to focus exclusively on American Indian women’s issues. American Indian women also attended the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston, but the conflicting views of white feminists and women of color on the matter of sterilization and abortion made it difficult for their voices to be heard.
My research examines the coverage of the sterilization abuse of minority women, and American Indian activism in newspapers to illuminate the invisibility of American Indian women during this period. I also analyze the American Indian activists and feminist activists’ agendas through personal accounts, American Indian Movement manifestos, National Women’s Conference proceedings from this period, and their lack of focus on American Indian women’s concerns.