Author Candace Wellman  Peace Weavers cover

PULLMAN, Wash.—Women Writing the West has announced Bellingham, Washington, author Candace Wellman’s Peace Weavers: Uniting the Salish Coast Through Cross-Cultural Marriages as the 2018 WILLA Literary Award Winner. A team of professional librarians, historians, and university affiliated educators selected it as representing the best of 2017 published scholarly nonfiction for women’s stories set in the American West. Wellman and her book will be honored in Walla Walla, Washington, October 25-27, 2018, at the organization’s 24th annual conference.

While helping researchers at the Washington State Archives, Candace Wellman found the vast majority of marriages in Whatcom County’s early decades were cross-cultural. Although the husbands included nearly every community founder and official, it seemed many historians considered their indigenous wives to be unknowable, unimportant, and uninteresting. Yet the alliances played a crucial role, aiding settlement and reducing regional conflict between native peoples and newcomers. The Native women served as cultural interpreters and mediators, and participated in the birth of new communities. Wellman became determined to uncover the hidden history surrounding these relationships, consulting close to two hundred collaborators.

Peace Weavers illuminates the Puget Sound legacies of four intermarried individuals. Caroline Davis Kavanaugh (Samish-Swinomish) lived on a small peninsula nearly her entire life and protected its life-giving spring. Mary Fitzhugh Lear Phillips (S’Klallam) was the first woman sent to the Washington territorial prison. Clara Tennant Selhameten (Lummi-Duwamish) was a Lummi leader’s daughter who became the county’s first farm wife. She and her husband traveled throughout the area as Methodist missionaries. Nellie Carr Lane (Sto:lo) was an entrepreneur and navigational light keeper who learned to use the court system to fight for her rights.

Their fates represent thousands of intermarriages that began as soon as the feet of European explorers hit the sands of the New World, and Wellman believes there are many more stories to be told. An expert in research methods, sociology, history, and genealogy, She began by re-scrutinizing old sources and searching for new ones, particularly legal cases. Her discoveries destroy common stereotypes about mid-1800s cross-cultural marriages, revealing remarkable, accomplished women.

Peace Weavers is paperback, 6″ x 9″, 302 pages in length, and lists for $27.95. It is available through bookstores nationwide, direct from WSU Press at 800-354-7360 or online at A nonprofit academic publisher associated with Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, WSU Press concentrates on telling unique, focused stories of the Northwest.

Other honors and awards

Media Contacts:     

Caryn Lawton, WSU Press, 509-335-7877,

Candace Wellman, author, 360- 201-2133 (cell),