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Women in Anthropology Autobiographical Narratives and Social History by Maria G. Cattell

Women in Anthropology Autobiographical Narratives and Social History


Women in Anthropology Autobiographical Narratives and Social History by Maria G. Cattell

Women in academia have struggled for centuries to establish levels of acceptance and credibility equal to men in the same fields, and anthropology has been no different. The women anthropologists in this book speak frankly about their challenges and successes as they navigated through their personal and professional lives. Riding the changing tides of social and disciplinary history, they struggled through various and sometimes conflicting arenas of life-marriage, raising children, caring for families, publishing, conducting research, going into the field, teaching, and mentoring. They did this during volatile periods in the twentieth century when the roles and expectations for women were being constantly reestablished and repositioned. For anyone interested in the cultural and demographic shifts that are fundamentally altering opportunities for women in the workplace, Women in Anthropology is a thought provoking and inspirational read. For anthropologists, it is an important and intimate portrait of the realities of professional life.


'One is filled with admiration for the determination and hard work that enabled these women to become professional anthropologists in the face of overwhelming odds. And one cannot help but be drawn into a review of his or her own pilgrimage to the doctorate. Schweitzer provides an evocative context for these memories in her chapter, recounting those aspects of U.S. history that shaped the lives and the education of women in recent decades...The reader cannot help but be engaged and informed by this newest collection of essays dealing with women\'s careers in anthropology. These remarkable anthropologists and their achievements place older, but not yet aged, women within the cross-cultural context of the nonindustrial world, where the middle-aged woman is typically \'in her prime\.'
American Anthropologist

'Collectively, these 17 narratives illustrate how anthropology itself is a cultural construction, shaped historically and in the present by larger configurations of gender, race and class that embrace some minds and bodies while leaving others to forge their own paths. Born between 1913 and 1947, many of the scholars represented here took the fast track from high school to college to the status of well-educated young wives and mothers. Time passed productively, yet, as one author explains,

When Betty Freidan wrote about the 'trapped housewife,'
I recognized myself.

Guided less by institutional mentors than by the idea of anthropology as an intellectual pursuit and practice, they enrolled in doctoral programs where some professors wondered aloud about the length and productivity of a mature student

's career. Turning ageism on its head, these researchers describe the strength and flexibility of working as older women in the field. They also bring unique, diachronic insights to the development of anthropological theory, which some studied first as undergraduates in the 1940s and 1950s.'
Maria D. Vesperi, New College of Florida

About the Author

Maria G. Cattell is a research associate at The Field Museum of Natural History. She received her PhD in 1989 from Bryn Mawr College, and after completing a dissertation on aging and gender in rural Kenya, continued her research there for a quarter century. Marjorie M. Schweitzer received her PhD in 1978 from the University of Oklahoma, and wrote her dissertation on The Power and Prestige of the Elderly in Two Indian Communities. In 1986 Marjorie retired as Assistant Professor at Oklahoma State University. She continues to be an advocate for the survival of American Indian culture.

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Book Info

Publication date

15th September 2006


Maria G. Cattell

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Left Coast Press Inc


264 pages


Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography



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