University of Oklahoma Press, 1995 

Molly Spotted Elk book cover (185940 bytes)


This biography chronicles the extraordinary life of 20th-century performing artist Molly Spotted Elk. Born in 1903 on the Penobscot reservation in Maine, Molly ventured into show business at an early age, performing vaudeville in New York, starring in the classic film The Silent Enemy, then dancing for royalty and mingling with the literary elite in Europe. In Paris she found an audience more appreciative of

authentic American Indian dance than in the United States. There she married a French journalist, but was forced to leave him and flee France with their daughter during the German occupation of 1940. Using extensive diaries in conjunction with letters, interviews, and other sources, Bunny McBride reconstructs Molly's story and sheds light on the pressure she and her peers endured in having to act out white stereotypes of the "Indian." Foreword by Dr. Eunice Bauman-Nelson, Molly's sister. Postscript by Jean Archambaud Moore, Molly's daughter.

"A terrific story that shatters stereotypes." Rayna Green, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

"Molly Spotted Elk's life story explodes many stereotypes as well as makes a fascinating read." Colin Calloway, Director, American Indian Studies, Dartmouth College

"This book is EXCELLENT! Bunny McBride's words made me feel as though I walked with Molly Spotted Elk throughout her life. With understanding, compassion, respect, and utmost sensitivity, she brings to the reader's attention not only the inner strengths that Native American women possess, but also the conflicts that arise in their efforts to live in two cultures without surrendering their cultural heritage and identity." Dr. Hazel Dean-John, Faith Keeper of the Wolf Clan and Director of the Seneca Language Center, Allegany Reservation


"An irresistable story."   New York Times

"A first-rate documentary in a neglected area of American Indian studies, that of Indians in show business."    American Indian Culture and Resource Journal

"Although McBride’s anthropology credentials are obvious in her depictions of Molly’s cultural heritage, the exuberant writing fairly pulses with the same energy and keen intellect possessed by Molly herself. A book to be valued for its telling revelations of an exceptional life and its keen portrayal of a closely knit Native American family."    Booklist

"An engrossing account of Molly’s adventurous life."    Publisher’s Weekly

"Enriched by Molly’s diaries and McBride’s interviews with those who knew her, this is a first-rate telling of an unusual life story."        Kirkus Reviews

"A stunning portrait." Rapport

"Writing with the poetic cadence of native expression enriched by the expertise of the scholar, author Bunny McBride adroitly choreographs the multifaceted life of Molly Spotted Elk into an engaging tale. Drawing from Molly’s numerous diaries, letters, writings, photographs and collection of newspaper clippings, enlivened by interviews, McBride presents a novel-like biography thoroughly researched and grounded by extensive documentary footnotes. . . . The universality of this book will appeal not only to those fascinated with native history, biography and performance, but also to those readers who possess an interest in the crossing of physical, cultural and intellectual boundaries."  Ethnohistory

"McBride succinctly yet evocatively provides the complicated cultural and historical contexts that readers need to understand the significance of Molly’s experience. The book is a pleasure to read, demonstrating that complex issues of representation and identity can be addressed without the postmodern jargon that so often obscures academic prose." American Indian Quarterly

"This well-documented biography slashes stereotypes and inspires even as it displays the racism and discrimination that intrude Indian lives."     New Mexico Historical Review

"The stunning result [of McBride’s research] is a model for effective scholarship and felicitous writing. She skillfully incorporates critical theoretical and political issues. Among other things, she indicts the effect of colonialism. But McBride accomplishes these matters gracefully, never breaking the narrative flow. Anyone who likes a gripping tale well told will enjoy this book."    Dance Research Journal

In sharing Spotted Elk’s life with us, Bunny McBride tells us much about Penobscot family life and American popular culture while giving an extraordinary Mainer a secure place in history."    Maine Sunday Telegram

"This wonderful biography will be invaluable to library collections in the area of Native American Studies, Women’s Studies, Performing Arts, and pre-WWII French society. A truly unique book that is highly recommended."   American Indian Library Newsletter

"An excellent, well-written, well-researched, engrossing and important book."    The Penobscot Times