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Daybreak Woman

Daybreak Woman

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An Anglo-Dakota Life

Author Jane Lamm Carroll

Minnesota Historical Society Press (November 3, 2020)


A remarkable woman’s life spans nearly a century of peace, invasion, war, exile, return, and astonishing change.


Daybreak Woman, also known as Jane Anderson Robertson, was born at a trading post on the Minnesota River in 1810 and lived for ninety-two years in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Canada, and South Dakota. The daughter of an Anglo- Canadian trader and a Scots-Dakota woman, she witnessed seismic changes.

For her first five decades, Daybreak Woman was nurtured and respected in the multiethnic society that thrived for generations in the region. But in the last forty years of the nineteenth century, this way of life was swamped and nearly annihilated as the result of Euro-American colonization and the forced exile of most Dakota and Euro-Dakota people from Minnesota after the US–Dakota War of 1862. Dakota and Euro-Dakota people struggled to reestablish their communities in the face of racial violence, injustice, calls for their mass extermination, abject poverty, disease, starvation, and death. Daybreak Woman and her children survived these cataclysmic events and endured to rebuild their lives as Anglo- Dakota people in an anti-Indian world.

In this extraordinary biography, historian Jane Lamm Carroll uses the life of one mixed-heritage woman and her family as a window into American society, honoring the past’s complexity and providing insights into the present.

Author information

Jane Lamm Carroll is professor of history and women’s studies at St. Catherine University and contributing author and coeditor of Liberating Sanctuary: 100 Years of Women’s Education at the College of St. Catherine.

Reviews and news

Winner of the 2022 American Association for State and Local History Publication Award in the Large Press Category 

Finalist for a 2021 Minnesota Book Award (Minnesota Nonfiction)

"Daybreak Woman, a gripping American drama, is history made real." CHOICE

Excerpt in Minnesota History magazine

Advance Praise:

“In this deft biography, Jane Lamm Caroll guides us through a life rooted in the vital and expansive kinship networks that determined belonging, opportunity, conflict, and resilience for Dakota and mixed-ancestry community members in nineteenth-century Mni Sota Makoce. In a journey from the height of the fur trade, through the devastating war of 1862, and onward to the turn of a new century, we see the ways in which women’s labor — cultural, spiritual, economic, diplomatic, and domestic — built and rebuilt worlds of meaning that persisted despite great upheaval and change. This is a vibrant and engrossing book.”
Catherine J. Denial, author of Making Marriage: Husbands, Wives, and the American State in Dakota and Ojibwe Country

“The research in Daybreak Woman is rich, dense, and inclusive, and Jane Lamm Carroll writes a story that is highly personal and engaging. Learning about the lives of so many Dakota and Anglo-Dakota individuals and families forces readers to re-think what we thought we knew about the history of Mni Sota Makoce.”
Colette Hyman, author of Dakota Women’s Work: Creativity, Culture, and Exile


  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 256 pages
  • 20 b/w photos, notes, index, bibliography
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • ISBN: 9781681341668

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