In 1884, twenty-three-year-old Corabelle Fellows left her family in Washington, DC, and journeyed out West to teach Native children in Nebraska and Dakota Territory. She hoped her missionary work would improve the lives of the Dakota and Lakota Sioux people by helping them assimilate into white culture, following the predominant government policy at the time. But after years of living among the Native people, it was Cora’s perceptions of life, love, and faith that were transformed. It began with her friendship with Elizabeth Winyan, a remarkable Dakota woman who was a model of strength, compassion, and adaptability among her people. Winyan became a maternal figure for Cora in the strange land so far from the “civilized” city. She even saved Cora from being married against her will.
Then Cora met Sam Campbell, a man from Scottish and Sioux stock. They fell in love and were married, though the match made national headlines after Cora’s family disowned her. The couple struggled to find a place in the American frontier, straddling two worlds. For years their marriage was grist for the yellow press, and they became a sensational national story that led them to a brief stint as a sideshow attraction for traveling exhibitions and dime museums to support themselves. They would never live happily ever after, and the couple was plagued by racist rhetoric and sexist slander even after their divorce.
Life Painted Red details Cora’s experiences from her Washington, DC, exodus to her years living among the Sioux, and her scandalous, short-lived marriage to Sam Campbell.
Chuck Raasch is an author and journalist. He was an original long-form writers for USA Today when it began, a national correspondent and columnist for Gannett News Service for twenty-five years, and a Washington correspondent for the St Louis Post Dispatch. A native South Dakotan and graduate of South Dakota State University, Raasch completed a journalism fellowship at Stanford University and is a member of the National Press Club and the Gridiron Club. He lives in the Washington, DC, metro area.