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Bonney, Mary Lucinda (1816–1900)

Bonney, Mary Lucinda (1816–1900)

American educator who worked for Native American reform. Born in Hamilton, New York, on June 8, 1816; died in Hamilton, New York, on July 24, 1900; graduated from Emma Willard's Troy Female Seminary, 1835; married Thomas Rambaut (a minister), in 1888 (died 1890).

A teacher by profession, Mary Bonney held positions in schools around the country before she and a friend opened the Chestnut Street Female Seminary in Philadelphia, of which she served as principal for 38 years. (In 1883, the school was moved to Ogontz, Pennsylvania, and renamed the Ogontz School for Young Ladies.) Bonney was also active in the missions of her Baptist church, as well as the interdenominational Woman's Union Missionary Society of America for Heathen Lands.

In 1879, Bonney was outraged when she read that Congress proposed to abolish the treaties reserving lands in Indian Territory for certain tribes. Rallying her missionary circles, she mounted a petition campaign calling for the treaties to be honored. In 1880, a petition with 13,000 signatures was presented to President Rutherford B. Hayes and then to Congress. By January 1881, Bonney's group, now calling themselves the Central Indian Committee, submitted a second petition with 50,000 names to the Senate through Senator Henry L. Dawes. The group formally organized later that year as the Indian Treaty-Keeping and Protective Association (eventually the Women's National Indian Association), of which Bonney became president. They presented yet another petition to Senator Dawes, this time bearing 100,000 signatures and outlining a proposal drafted by Amelia S. Quinton for the allotment of tribal lands to individual Native Americans.

In 1883, under Bonney's leadership, the organization devoted itself to missionary work among the Native Americans, offering training in English, religion, and domestic skills. Although Bonney retired from the presidency in 1884, she remained active in Native American reform. The efforts she initiated finally culminated in passage of the Dawes Severalty Act of February 1887, which embodied the allotment principle. Bonney married at the age of 72 and was widowed only two years later. She died in Hamilton, New York, at age 84.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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