Wealth and Rebellion

Wealth and Rebellion : Elsie Clews Parsons, Anthropologist and Folklorist

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Stereotyped as a rather eccentric but generous woman who used her wealth to forward the disciplines of anthropology and folklore and the careers of young scholars, Elsie Clews Parsons was an outspoken feminist, pacifist, and social critic. She shocked fellow summer residents of Newport, Rhode Island, by appearing at the exclusive Bailey's Beach prior to World War I without her heavy stockings. She tested the patience and understanding of her devoted husband, Herbert Parsons, through her active involvement in the pacifist resistance to World War I. And she roused wide-spread public criticism with her authorship of a textbook that advocated trial marriage as a means of helping a couple determine whether they were prepared for a lifetime commitment.Rosemary Levy Zumwalt has drawn on Parsons's letters, papers, and books to produce a multifaceted biography of a woman who, in addition to being outspoken in her social and political views, was the foremost female anthropologist of the early twentieth century.Parsons became part of a circle of liberal intellectuals that included Ralph Lippmann, Randolph Bourne, Frances Hackett, Signe Toksvig, Clarence Day, and others involved in starting The New Republic and other publications. She began a correspondence with the famed cultural anthropologist Franz Boas in 1915. Zumwalt shows how their friendship developed into a warm collegiality that was ultimately important for the disciplines of anthropology and folklore. Parsons's fieldwork was done both individually and with such well-known colleagues as Boas, Alfred Louis Kroeber, and Ralph Beals. Indefatigable in her work, Parsons was known for her extraordinary collecting and editing during the 1920s and 1930s. She was also generous with her time and her considerable wealth, both of which she gave freely to those starting to work in the field and those who asked for her assistance.Parsons was a central figure in the professionalization of anthropology, the first woman elected president of the American Anthropological Association, and a president of the American Folklore Society. She did extensive fieldwork among the Pueblo Indians and among blacks in the Carolinas and the Caribbean. The work with which she is most often identified centered on Mexican village complexes and Andean acculturation.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 400 pages
  • 160.8 x 237.2 x 35.3mm | 846g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • 0252019091
  • 9780252019098