Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
From law breakers to law makers, suffragists to unionists, bronc riders to ball players, Bold Women of Montana celebrates Women’s History Month in our state! Learn more about 23 bold women of Montana. Listen every weekday in March at 8:42 a.m. and 2:04 p.m., and find the latest episodes here.

Bold Women: Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail, nursing pioneer

Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail
Nursing License Map
Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail

Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail was the first registered nurse of Apsaalooke, or Crow, descent, and was one of the first native RNs in the whole U.S. Born in 1903, Susie grew up in Pryor on the Crow Reservation. Her dad was Crow, her mom Sioux. By age 12, she’d lost both of them.

She went to Oklahoma with missionaries, then to seminary and nursing schools in Massachusetts. Despite so much mainstream influence, Susie Crow’s heritage remained strong. With her new degree, she worked for a few years with other tribes, then returned to Crow to marry her childhood friend Thomas Yellowtail in 1929.

Working at the hospital in Crow Agency, Susie also began traveling to other reservations for the Public Health Service. Poor health-care-access that led to children’s deaths, sterilization of native women without their knowledge or consent, and a lack of cultural competency among providers were issues she saw over and over again on reservations. So, for the rest of her life, she never stopped fighting for reform in native health and education—at every level, within her own tribe, on state advisory boards, and on federal ones too, under Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.

In the 1950s, Susie and Thomas traveled to Europe and the Mid-East as ambassadors of native culture. Susie did all this while raising her own three kids and several adopted ones and creating beautiful beadwork. She won many prestigious awards throughout her life, but her favorite came in 1978. The American Indian Nurses Association named Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail, “Grandmother of American Indian Nurses.”

Celebrating Women's History Month, Bold Women of Montana is brought to you by Mountain Press, publisher of Bold Women in Montana History, and is produced by Beth Judy, Jake Birch and Michael Marsolek. Theme Music by Naomi Moon Siegel.

Beth Judy is the author of Bold Women in Montana History and a limited audio series based on the book. She previously hosted and produced The Plant Detective, a locally produced and nationally syndicated program.
Become a sustaining member for as low as $5/month
Make an annual or one-time donation to support MTPR
Pay an existing pledge or update your payment information