Alice Brown Davis was born on September 10, 1852, and became the first female Principal Chief of the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma. Alice’s parents were both part of the forced removal from Florida of the Seminole; her mother, Lucy Redbeard, was part of the Tiger Clan, and her father, Dr. John Frippo Brown, was a military surgeon who traveled with the tribe. They married during the trip and eventually had seven children.
Alice was well-educated for the time. She spoke both of her parents languages, Mikasuki and English, and attended the Ramsay Mission School. When she was 15, both of her parents died soon after the cholera epidemic in 1967 and she went to live with her brother John at Wewoka, the capital of the Seminole Nation. Alice completed her studies and taught school until she married George Davis in 1874.
Alice and George operated a trading post, with post office and general store, and a ranch. They had 11 children, some of which were still young when Alice became a widow in her 40s. After George died, she continued to run the trading post and the ranch, became the postmistress, and began to work with her brother Chief John F. Brown as an interpreter and assistant for the Tribe. This allowed her to gain knowledge of tribal issues, including the requirements for Oklahoma statehood. She also became superintendent of Emahaka, the Seminole Nation’s girls’ school.
In 1922, Alice’s appointment as Principal Chief by Warren G. Harding was initially controversial, but she won the people’s support and served until her death on June 21, 1935. She was inducted into the National Hall of Fame for Famous Native Americans as well as the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
Find out what else happened on September 10 in Women’s History.