Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Sheryl A. Gowen, Ph.D. - Committee Chair

Second Advisor

Ann Kruger, Ph.D. - Committee Member

Third Advisor

Barbara Kawulich, Ph.D - Committee Member

Fourth Advisor

Chara Bohan, Ph.D. - Committee Member

Fifth Advisor

Robert Breunig, Ph.D. - Committee Member


What were Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton’s contributions to the progressive education movement and the Indian arts and crafts movement in the Southwestern United States at a time when the region was still very remote? Artist, author, amateur ethnographer, educator, and curator; these were but a few of the talents of Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton, co-founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona and early art advocate on the Colorado Plateau. This study investigates how Colton contributed to the progressive education movement and the Indian arts and crafts movement through the work that she did at the museum. There, she labored to increase public awareness of the importance of art education and to revive Native American arts on the Colorado Plateau. Using an extensive collection of archival material in the Colton Collection at the Museum of Northern Arizona, as well as oral history interviews, this historical study provides a nuanced analysis of Colton’s life as an educator. Colton’s influence is not well known today, but her professional contributions merit recognition, giving her a place in the history of American education. This study reveals how Colton’s efforts fit within the context of the work of her contemporaries in Santa Fe and Taos, and within the progressive education movement, from the then relatively remote outpost of Flagstaff. Much can be learned from Colton’s work that is relevant to the field of education today. Her ideals and writings about art education will resonate with opponents of No Child Left Behind. Colton’s work as one of northern Arizona’s earliest art educators contributed to a better understanding of the culture of the various peoples of the Colorado Plateau and to the preservation of Navajo and Hopi traditions through education. Colton made notable contributions to the Indian arts and crafts movement, museum education, and the progressive education movement. A woman of firm convictions and ideals, Colton was strong-willed, and complex, a multi-faceted person with a broad range of interests which she pursued with passion and commitment. This study crosses the boundaries of several disciplines, including educational history, museum studies, women’s studies, educational biography, Native American studies, and art education.