Muriel Hazel Wright (31 March 1889 – 27 February 1975) was an American teacher, historian and writer on the Choctaw Nation. She wrote several books about Oklahoma, and was unofficially called "Historian of Oklahoma." she also was very active in the Oklahoma Historical Society and served as editor of the Chronicles of Oklahoma from 1955 to 1971.

Early life

Wright was born in Lehigh, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory (now known as Lehigh, Oklahoma) in 1889. Her father was Eliphalet Wright, a Choctaw who had graduated from Union College and Albany Medical College. He had returned to the Choctaw Nation in 1895 to be a doctor for the Missouri-Pacific coal mines at Lehigh and to open a private medical practice. Eliphalet's father was Allen Wright, who was principal chief of the Choctaw Nation from 1866 to 1870.

Muriel's paternal grandmother was Harriet Newell Mitchell, a native of Dayton, Ohio. She came to Indian Territory as a Presbyterian missionary teacher, and married Allen Wright in 1857. Harriet could claim descendency from people who had come to America aboard the Mayflower in 1620. Muriel's mother was Ida Belle Richards, who was also a missionary.

Muriel Wright attended Wheaton Seminary in Norton, Massachusetts. After returning to her home town, she completed a teacher's education course at East Central Normal School in Ada, Oklahoma in 1912. After getting her certificate, she went to work from 1912 until the mid 1920s as a teacher and as a principal in various schools in southeastern Oklahoma. She took time from 1916 – 1917 to attend Barnard College at Columbia University, where she studied English and history.

Career as historian and author

Always proud of her Choctaw heritage, her passion for Native American history blossomed after she met journalist Joseph B. Thorburn in 1914. He also happened to be a board member of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The two collaborated to produce a four-volume work, Oklahoma: A History of the State and its People, which was published in 1929. She also authored three textbooks about the state's history which were used in public schools: The Story of Oklahoma, Our Oklahoma and The Oklahoma History.

In 1922, she joined the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS), where she was very active for much of her life. After 1924, she devoted her time to writing about the Native Americans of Oklahoma. She contributed to and edited the OHS quarterly journal, The Chronicles of Oklahoma., although she was not formally given the title of editor until 1955.

Wright took a leading role in negotiating for Choctaw rights and compensation for the loss of their historic lands.

The North American Indian Women's Association named Wright the outstanding Indian woman of the 20th century in 1971.

Wright retired in 1973, and died of a stroke in Oklahoma City on February 27, 1975. She was buried at Rose Hill Burial Park in Oklahoma City. She has also with a memorial marker at Boggy Depot Cemetery in Atoka, Oklahoma. Her historical papers are housed at the Oklahoma Historical Society in Oklahoma City.

Books

  • The story of Oklahoma, 1923
  • Oklahoma: A History of the State and its People, 1929 (co-author with Joseph Thorburn)
  • The Oklahoma History, 1929
  • Our Oklahoma, 1939
  • A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma, 1951
  • Mark of Heritage: Oklahoma Historical Markers, 1958 (co-author with George H. Shirk)
  • Civil War Sites in Oklahoma, 1966 (co-author with LeRoy H. Fischer

Awards

  • Oklahoma Hall of Fame, 1940
  • University of Oklahoma's Distinguished Service Award, 1948
  • Oklahoma City Business and Professional Woman of the Year, 1950
  • Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Oklahoma University, 1964,
  • National American Indian Women's Association Award, 1971
  • Oklahoma Historians Hall of Fame, 1993