Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Cora DuBois: Anthropologist, Diplomat, Agent (Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology)

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Cora DuBois: Anthropologist, Diplomat, Agent (Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology)

Article excerpt

Cora DuBois: Anthropologist, Diplomat, Agent (Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology) Susan C. Seymour, May 10, 2015 [U.K.: July 1, 2015] Publisher: University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln, NE and London. 423 pages, 22 Photographs (listed as "Illustrations"): Index Included:

Susan C. Seymour provides a biographical description of both the personal and professional life of anthropological pioneer, Cora DuBois. As the title indicates, she was a diplomat and agent of the United States government, however contents of the book indicate that DuBois was, foremost, an educator and social scientist. Having earned a PhD in Anthropology at the University of California, Berkley, she eventually became the first tenured female professor at Harvard University. The author indicates that her book is offered to describe the life and times of "a twentieth-century first woman," and, considering the barriers that even the most talented women faced at the time, the accomplishments of Cora DuBois are noteworthy. The book also includes extensive information about the development of American anthropology during the period when Freud's theories dominated the social and behavioral science disciplines.

Born in Brooklyn, New York on October 26, 1903, Cora Alice DuBois was the second child, and only daughter, of an international entrepreneur who had extensive business interests in Switzerland and Johannesburg, South Africa. She would have been born there if the Second Boer War had not forced foreign businessmen to flee the nation. Reared by a very loving father and a mother who withheld affection from her, DuBois developed what she described as the ability to be a 'distant observer of mankind." Throughout, the book includes inferences, as well as direct personal writings, which indicate that Cora was "a lesbian." The author was careful, however, to refrain from including details of homosexual interactions between the subject and significant others in her life.

Seymour provides an interesting description of the subject's life from early childhood onward. Biography enthusiasts are likely to enjoy reading that, in 1908, the five-year-old moved with her family to St. Quentin France, where her father would establish and manage a chemical factory. Cora's mother, Mattie Schreiber DuBois, was described as "a typical American girl" whose father became a dentist while serving as commissioner of education for the "city of Brooklyn, New York."

During her years in France, DuBois began keeping a diary. The contents of that chronicle enabled the author to ascertain the inner thoughts of her subject, who prided herself in the ability to disguise feelings. As a result, readers will learn about the myriad considerations that caused DuBois to make the decisions that led to her incredibly unique and successful life. In France, she developed a love for writing and honed skills that would be recognized throughout her career.

Fortunately, the DuBois family left France just before the outbreak of World War I. Having achieved a measure of financial security, the patriarch was transferred to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, where he would manage another large company and expose his family to a life of wealth and privilege. Cora DuBois was fortunate to also have wealthy relatives in Europe, whom she visited following graduation from high school. Originally, the parents intended to make the trip with their daughter. The father was very ill, however, and was advised to remain home. Unwilling for their daughter to travel alone, the parents hired a young French professor from Smith College to accompany her. Merely by chance, they selected someone who was described as "sensitive, attentive, and a lesbian." Seymour recounts a diary entry in which Cora expressed joy that she was finally able to "intimately relate" with someone about her sexual identity.

While in Europe, Du Bose had very enjoyable experiences as she met with family members, and traveled extensively. …

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