Three Generations of Women Anthropologists at the Peabody Museum

The professional lives of Alice Fletcher, Harriet Cosgrove, and Cora Du Bois span more than one hundred years of American Anthropology. All three were closely associated with the Peabody Museum which, along with the Tozzer Library, holds many of the letters, notebooks, photographs, artifacts, and publications that allow us to trace their individual histories as well as the history of the discipline they helped to shape.

The careers of these women reflect the times they lived, however, the professional and personal choices they made were uniquely their own. Fletcher, Cosgrove, and Du Bois were not, strictly speaking, institutional scholars. Due to prejudice, personal leanings, and the predilections of powerful mentors, they worked for all or most of their careers without the security of tenure or regular university appointments.

Eeach of these women possessed a special talent for inventing themselves as they crafted their individual relationships to the discipline of Anthropology. The roads they took were unusual--perhaps even eccentric--but in making their own way they established methods of working that have enriched those who followed them. Whether our attention is drawn to Fletcher's transcription of Omaha music, Cosgrove's painstaking documentation of Mimbres pottery, or Du Bois's pioneering use of photography, we must be impressed by the uniqueness of their visions and the strength of their commitment to anthropology.


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