Ruth Landes: A Life in Anthropology

By Sally Cole | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Immigrant Daughter

Relatives and friends filled my mother, Anna, with feeling for Old Testament events that might touch her life. Especially there was the Book of Ruth, the young Moabite who clung to her Jewish mother-in-law. Anna "knew” she carried a girl- child and felt inspired to visit the Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue where she seated herself near Millet 's reverent painting of "Ruth Gleaning in the Fields of Boas.” By Jewish law, Boas was obliged to marry the widow of a near kinsman, as Ruth's late husband was, in order to raise children for the deceased (who had died without issue). The grave Bible story was echoed in Anna. And 20 years later this Ruth would join some six others of the name, varied in age and origins, to work in the American field governed by Boas. 1

U T H L A N D E S enjoyed telling this story that related her choice of a career in anthropology to the choice made by R the biblical Ruth after whom she was named. As she tells it, she was predestined for anthropology by events that took place when she was carried in her mother's womb.

In the biblical story Ruth, after the death of her husband, attached herself to her mother-in-law, Naomi, saying: "Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Book of Ruth, 1 : 16). Naomi brought Ruth with her to the land of her elder kinsman, Boaz, who allowed Ruth, the Moabite stranger, to glean a living in his fields until he eventually married her, making her kin and no longer a stranger. Through this personal origin myth Ruth Landes claimed that she was predestined to meet the paternal Franz Boas —known to his women students as "Papa Franz”—and to become his anthropological daughter. 2 And, in Ruth's story, Naomi, the adoptive mother, may be understood as Ruth Benedict, to whom Ruth Landes attached herself in anthropology. The story tells of Ruth's experiences of marginality, her desires for integration, and

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Ruth Landes: A Life in Anthropology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Ruth Landes - A Life in Anthropology *
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations *
  • Series Editors' Introduction *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Introduction *
  • Part One - Beginnings *
  • Chapter One - Immigrant Daughter *
  • Chapter Two - New Woman *
  • Chapter Three - Student at Columbia *
  • Part Two - Apprenticeship in Native American Worlds *
  • Prologue *
  • Chapter Four - Maggie Wilson and Ojibwa Women's Stories *
  • Chapter Five - Lusty Shamans in the Midwest *
  • Part Three - She-Bull in Brazil's China Closet *
  • Prologue *
  • Chapter Six - Fieldwork in Brazil *
  • Chapter Seven - Writing Afro-Brazilian Culture in New York *
  • Chapter Eight - The Early Ethnography of Race and Gender *
  • Conclusion - Life and Career *
  • Notes *
  • Bibliography *
  • Index *
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