Dec. 21, 1945
Wilma Mankiller was elected the first female principal chief of the
Cherokee Nation, the second largest tribe in the United States. As chief
she ruled over 140,000 people and 7,000 square miles. People did not
take easily to the idea of a woman as chief: during her campaign she
received death threats.
Just four years
after she became chief she had a head-on collision with another car
and was almost killed. She lived through 17 subsequent operations on
her right leg. For WIlma Mankiller this was a time of deep spiritual
Then a year after
the car accident, she found out she had myasthenia gravis, a chronic
neuromuscular disease. Throughout her physical trials she continued
to work to improve the health of mothers and children in her tribe.
As chief, Wilma Mankiller has brought about major economic and social
improvements for her tribe, including economic development and education.
"Prior to my election, young Cherokee girls would never have thought
that they might grow up and become chief."
- First woman
elected principal chief of the Cherokee nation
Wilma Mankiller, Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Bruce Glassman