front cover of Sally in Three Worlds
Sally in Three Worlds
An Indian Captive in the House of Brigham Young
Virginia Kerns
University of Utah Press, 2021

In this remarkable and deeply felt book, Virginia Kerns uncovers the singular and forgotten life of a young Indian woman who was captured in 1847 in what was then Mexican territory. Sold to a settler, a son-in-law of Brigham Young, the woman spent the next thirty years as a servant to Young’s family. Sally, as they called her, lived in the shadows, largely unseen. She was later remembered as a “wild” woman made “tame” who happily shed her past to enter a new and better life in civilization. 

Drawing from a broad range of primary sources, Kerns retrieves Sally from obscurity and reconstructs her complex life before, during, and after captivity. This true story from the American past resonates deeply in the current moment, attentive as it is to killing epidemics and racial injustices. In telling Sally’s story, Kerns presents a new narrative of the American West. 


front cover of Scenes from the High Desert
Scenes from the High Desert
Virginia Kerns
University of Illinois Press, 2002
Julian Steward (1902-72) is best remembered in American anthropology as the creator of cultural ecology, a theoretical approach that has influenced generations of archaeologists and cultural anthropologists. Virginia Kerns considers the intellectual and emotional influences of Steward's remarkable career, exploring his early life in the American West, his continued attachments to western landscapes and inhabitants, his research with Native Americans, and the writing of his classic work, Theory of Culture Change. With fluid prose and rich detail, the book captures the essence and breadth of Steward's career while carefully measuring the ways he reinforced the male-centered structure of mid-twentieth-century American anthropology.

logo for University of Illinois Press
Women and the Ancestors
Virginia Kerns
University of Illinois Press, 1997

     This classic study of Black
        Carib culture and its preservation through ancestral rituals organized
        by older women now includes a foreword by Constance R. Sutton and an afterword
        by the author.
      "One of the outstanding
        studies of this genre. . . . Refreshingly, the book has good photographs,
        as well as strong endnotes and bibliography, and very useful tables, figures,
        maps, and index." -- Choice
      "An outstanding contribution
        to the literature on female-centered bilateral kinship and residence."
        -- Grant D. Jones, American Ethnologist
      "A richly detailed account
        of a contemporary culture in which older women are important, valued,
        and self-respecting."
        -- Anthropology and Humanism Quarterly
      "A combination of competent
        research, interwoven themes, and an easily readable, sometimes beautifully
        evocative, prose style." -- Heather Strange, The Gerontologist


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