Amelia Stone Quinton

7-31-1833 to 6-23-1926
Native American Rights Activist

Amelia Stone Quinton was born in Jamesville, New York near Syracuse to JacobThompson Stone and Mary (Bennett) Stone. Her grandfather, Asa Bennett, was a Baptist Deacon in-Homer, where she grew up. She acquired the religious convictions from him that guided her through her later years. She attended Cortland academy in Homer, after which she became a tutor at an academy near Syracuse. She taught a year at a Madison, GA seminary and then married the Rev. James Franklin Swanson of Georgia. After his death, she returned North, and taught for a year at Philadelphia's Chestnut Street Female Seminary.. After that came a period of volunteer work in the correctional institutes of the New York City area. In 1874, she became one of the first members of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in Brooklyn. Not long after she began organizing other local unions and then became state organizer for the WCTU.

In 1877, her health failing, she went to Europe, and after recuperating from overwork and stress gave temperance talks at English churches and homes. During her time in England, she married the Rev. Richard L. Quinton of London, and in the spring of 1878 they established a home in Philadelphia.

The following spring of 1879, upon visiting her friend Mary Bonney, she found her quite disturbed over news of continuing pressure that was being put on Congress to open Native American territory to white settlement. The two then began a grassroots effort to get the public's attention for the benefit of Native Americans. They wrote a petition demanding the honoring of Native American treaties, circulated it among Pennsylvania Citizens, and in Feb. 1880 presented President Hayes and the House of Representatives with 13,000 signatures. Afterwards they created an inter-denominational women's committee in Philadelphia with Amelia being both Secretary and organizer. In January, 1881 a second petition with 50,000 signatures was brought to the Senate. Later in the year, Amelia began organizing outside the state of Pennsylvania. Thirteen newly formed committees helped to gather signatures and early in 1882 a third very impressive petition authored by Amelia's own hand with 100,000 signatures was presented to the Senate by Henry L. Dawes of Massachusetts. It demanded a new Native American policy of education, legal equality ends allotment of farm sized parcels of land to individual Native Americans

The public was awakening, and other groups began to develop. About "Indian Rights Association" in late 1882 joined the call for land allotment and was joined in 1883 by the Lake Mohonk Conference of "Friends of the Indian." Amelia's group now became the "Women's National Indian Association" and in 1883 began a program of missionary work and education amongst Native Americans. In 1884, she took her first trip West, toured reservations and spoke to groups of Native American women, while at the same time organizing white women in Kansas, Nebraska, and Dakota into auxiliary groups of her association, while encouraging man to support the men's group, the "Indian Rights Association." When she returned East, she began placing all her focus on gaining passage of federal allotment legislation. In 1885, along with others from a Mohonk committee, she personally presented the pleas for Native American allotment, education, and citizenship to President Cleveland. During that year the Philadelphia headquarters had contributed to more than 800 periodicals, presented 65 petitions to Congress, mailed 49,000 copies of 15 new publications, and Amelia had given 50 speeches. By the end of 1886 The Women's Association had 83 branches in 28 states and territories. 1887 brought the "Dawes Severalty Act" passage, which gave Native Americans land allotment and citizenship. For almost 50 years this would remain official Native American policy. It was in the 1930s that severe social and economic consequences and a changed public awareness that would force formation of new policy.

In 1887, The Women's Association made Amelia President, and for the following 18 years she led them in ongoing efforts for Native American welfare. She continued attending the Lake Mohonk conferences, serving on vital committees and reporting on the work of her association. She encouraged other reforms, including the extension of Civil Service to the Indian Bureau. She traveled south and organized more auxiliaries in seven states. It was sometime during that year, that her husband, who had also given himself to the Native American cause, died.

In 1888, with her dear friend Mary Bonney, she went to London for an international missionary convention. With renewed vigor, in 1891, she enrolled 10 more branches in the South and 24 in the, then, "far West." She lobbied Congress and helped gain larger appropriations for Native American education, as well as measures that protected lands of threatened Native American tribes.

When she supervised the establishment of fifty missions among the Native Americans, Amelia had "found her crowning joy." The association loaned interest free monies for the purchase of homes, provided teachers and opened libraries on reservations. They subsidized education to those like Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte, and developed markets for Native American goods.

In 1901, her group became the "National Indian Association" and began admitting men. Around 1904, the association and its president moved to New York. However, failing health caused Amelia to refuse re-election the following year. She did remain as chairman of the missionary department. In 1907, she started what would be several years of work in California. By 1910, she had returned East, and settled sometime later in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. At the age 93, she suffered cerebral hemorrhage and died in Ridgefield Park. She had attended meetings of the Native American welfare groups until she was 89. She was laid to rest at "home" in her childhood town of Homer, New York.


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