Aberle, Sophie D., 1899-

Alternative names
Birth 1899-07-21
Death 1996

Biographical notes:

Sophie D. Aberle, health researcher and administrator for Indian affairs, was born in Schenectady, New York on July 21, 1896. She received a Ph. D.from Stanford University in1927 and an M.D. from Yale in 1930. Aberleserved as Superintendent of the United Pueblos Agency, 1935-1944 andExecutive Director of the Commission on the Rights, Liberties andResponsibilities of the American Indian, 1959-1966. She died in Albuquerquein 1996.

From the description of Papers, 1913-1987. (University of New Mexico-Main Campus). WorldCat record id: 48243687

Sophie D. Aberle, health researcher and administrator for Indian Affairs, was born in Schenectady, New York on July 21, 1896. She received a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1927 and a M.D. from Yale in 1930. Aberle served as Superintendent to the United Pueblos Agency, 1935-1944 and Executive Directory of the Commission on the Rights, Liberties and Responsibilities of the American Indian, 1959-1966. She died in Albuquerque in 1996.

From the guide to the Sophie D. Aberle Photograph Collection, 1896-1996, (University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research)

Sophie D. Aberle reading Indian Art in America. PICT 000-0509-0001-0270 (Box 1, Folder 1).

Sophie D. Aberle was born Sophie Bledsoe Herrick on July 21, 1896 in Schenectady, New York. As a youth she had several instrumental female mentors, among them her grandmother and namesake, Sophia Bledsoe Herrick, a science and history writer for popular magazines. Educated by private tutors, Aberle (the name was from a brief marriage) applied for and received high school credit in order to attend college at the University of California in Berkeley. She later transferred to Stanford University where she completed her B.A in 1923, M.A. in 1925, and earned a doctorate in anatomy in 1927. Upon leaving Stanford, she came to New Mexico for the first time to research sexual behavior at San Juan Pueblo. Quickly discovering that the language barrier would prevent that research, instead she focused on the social life and customs of the pueblo. She returned to school at Yale University School of Medicine where she researched female reproductive biology, earning an M.D in 1930.

In 1935, John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, united five Indian administrative units to form the United Pueblos Agency. Aberle, who by this time had researched and published several articles on child birth and mortality among the Pueblos, was named superintendent of the new agency. Encompassing both the New Deal and World War II eras, her administration focused on issues relating to health, education, land, and agriculture. During this time she met William A. Brophy, Special Council for the Pueblos; they married in 1940. In 1944 Brophy was appointed Commission of Indian Affairs. Aberle left the United Pueblos Agency to accompany him to Washington where she did medical research for the National Academy of Science.

Returning to Albuquerque in 1948, Aberle continued her professional interest in health care and her service to the Native American population of New Mexico. She was a research director at the University of New Mexico, a health consultant to the All Indian Pueblo Council, a founder and staff member of the Bernalillo County Medical Center, on staff at the University of New Mexico Department of Psychiatry, and served on the New Mexico Commission on Indian Affairs, to name a few of her numerous activities. Of national note, she was Director of the BIA Indian Education Survey, 1963-1967 and a member of the Commission on the Rights, Liberties and Responsibilities of the American Indian, becoming Executive Director in 1959 when William Brophy resigned due to poor health.

In 1965 she began working with Pueblo leaders to bring computers into the pueblo schools. Her association with the Computer Assisted Instruction Program lasted until 1976 when she was fired by the All Indian Pueblo Council in a dispute over financial control. At that point she became disillusioned about her life-long approach toward working with Native Americans. She began 9 years of effort at writing a book based on her career. Alternatively titled, "Our Illusion of Roots" and "The End of an Illusion," the manuscript, a somewhat disaffected review of her career, was never published.

Aberle died in Albuquerque in 1996, having celebrated her 100th birthday. Her home on Albuquerque's West Mesa now serves as the visitor's center for Petroglyph National Monument.

From the guide to the Sophie D. Aberle Papers, 1913-1987, (University of New Mexico. Center for Southwest Research.)


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Ark ID:


  • Pueblo Indians--Computer-assisted instruction
  • Menominee Indians--Government relations
  • Land use
  • Infants--Mortality
  • Indians of North America--Government relations--1934-
  • Pueblo Indians--Population
  • Hopi Indians--Land tenure
  • Indians of North America--New Mexico--Pottery
  • Pueblo Indians--Health
  • Indians of North America--Legal status, laws, etc
  • Indians of North America--Education--History--20th century
  • Pueblo Indians--Government relations
  • Land use--New Mexico
  • Pueblo Indians--Land tenure
  • Pueblo Indians--Politics and government
  • Navajo Indians--Land tenure
  • Indian termination policy
  • Klamath Indians--Government relations
  • Navajo Indians--Government relations
  • Indians of North America--Social conditions


not available for this record


  • Petroglyph National Monument (N.M.) (as recorded)
  • New Mexico (as recorded)
  • Acoma (N.M.) (as recorded)
  • Albuquerque (N.M.) (as recorded)
  • Albuquerque (N.M.) Planning (as recorded)
  • San Francisco (Calif.) (as recorded)