Nancy Bradley, remembered as a master basket weaver, represents an earlier era of craftsmanship and daily life in the Cherokee community than many of the other great basket makers of the twentieth century. Like many basket makers, Bradley, who only spoke Cherokee, would bundle up her baskets in a blanket, which she would carry on her back to town to barter for groceries and other staples.
Her mother, Mary Dobson, born in 1857, was also an expert basket maker, remembered for using white oak in the doubleweave pattern that is usually done in rivercane. Like her mother, Nancy Bradley could make doubleweave baskets, a technique that was later reintroduced to the larger craft community in Cherokee in the school system.
Nancy and her husband Henry Bradley, who was the Eastern Band of the Cherokee’s principal chief in the late 1940s and early ’50s, had eight children. Henry and their sons would help in the basket making process by gathering rivercane for Nancy and the daughters. Among the Bradleys’ daughters were Rowena Bradley and Ellen Arneach, who both grew up to be highly regarded basket makers.