1875: Elsie Clews Parsons born (anthropologist)

  • American anthropologist, sociologist, folklorist, and feminist who studied Native American tribes—such as the Tewa and Hopi—in Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico. She helped found The New School.
  • She was associate editor for The Journal of American Folklore (1918-1941), president of the American Folklore Society (1919-1920)
  • President of the American Ethnological Society (1923-1925)
  • Elected the first female president of the American Anthropological Association (1941) right before her death.
  • She earned her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College in 1896. She received her master’s degree (1897) and Ph.D. (1899) from Columbia University.
  • Though married and the mother of four children, Parsons turned her seemingly limitless reserves of both energy and cash to pacifism, socialism, feminism, and anthropology. After a brief appointment as an instructor in the Sociology Department at Barnard College from 1902 to 1905, she taught graduate courses on the family and sex roles at Columbia University. She spent a good deal of her time with young radicals and intellectuals, and wrote occasionally for Max Eastman’s Masses. She also became involved with Heterodoxy, a feminist network in Greenwich village. Later, she was one of the founders of The New School for Social Research in New York City.
  • Parsons’s scholarship falls mostly into two categories: sociological studies, taking as a special interest the politics of sex and gender; and folkloric and ethnographic writings, focusing especially on the Native Americans of the American Southwest. Parsons’s first major publication was her 1906 study, The Family, which grew out of her lectures at Columbia University. In it, Parsons put forth a feminist argument that the admonitions upon women to serve as mothers and wives proved women’s fitness to social and political equality with men. Because Parsons discussed trial marriage in the study, preachers decried her from pulpits, newspapers denounced her on their front pages, and the social registry dropped her name from its rolls. Parsons followed this study with Religious Chastity (1913), The Old-Fashioned Woman (1913), Fear and Conventionality (1914), Social Freedom (1915), and Social Rule (1916). Parsons’ later ethnographic studies, the result of tireless research in the American Southwest from the early 1910s until her death in 1941, include Pueblo Indian Religion (1939) and Tewa Tales (1926).
  • Her Journal of a Feminist, unpublished in her lifetime, provides an outstanding introduction to her philosophy. In it, Parsons argues not only for the liberation of women, but for the free expression of the individual personality in society. It is important to note that her criticism of the stifling effects of gender expectations applied both to men and to women. In part her research about gender roles in Native American societies, and especially about gender-crossing informed these concerns.
  • Every other year, the American Ethnological Society awards the Elsie Clews Parsons Prize for the best graduate student essay, in her honor.


1877: Katharine Anthony born (mathematician, biographer)

  • US biographer best known for The Lambs (1945), a controversial study of the British writers Charles and Mary Lamb.
  • She studied at Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, the Universities of Heidelberg and Freiburg, and the University of Chicago. She received a Ph.B degree from Chicago in 1905 and taught at Wellesley College in 1907.
  • She became a public school teacher by 1910 and worked at that time in Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas.
  • In her first book, Mothers Who Must Earn (1914), Anthony used her skill to wage war against the abuse of women and children as laborers. With the prospect of enfranchisement on the horizon, she wrote of the life of feminist Margaret Fuller.
  • She moved from Arkansas perhaps because her mother had died in 1917, and by 1920 she was living in Manhattan with her life-partner Elisabeth Irwin (1880–1942), the founder of the Little Red School House, with whom she raised several adopted children (source: Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth Century America, Lillian Faderman, 1991).
  • Her book Catherine the Great was positively reviewed in the New York Times (Dec 20, 1925, pg BR8), which notes that Miss Anthony had, apparently for the first time, access to all of Catherine’s private memoirs.
  •  Her book Marie Antoinette was called a “…fresh and original life of Marie …” by the New York Times reviewer (Jan 29, 1933 pg BR5).
  • Her later works include a comprehensive biography of her distant relative Susan B. Anthony, and her last biography was about American revolutionary Mercy Otis Warren.
  • Her books Catherine the Great and Queen Elizabeth each sold more than 100,000 copies.
  • She died at St. Vincent’s Hospital, two weeks after having a heart attack. Her obituary appeared in the New York Times on Nov 22, 1965 (pg 37). She was survived by a sister, Mrs. Blanche Brown of Berkeley, California. Her funeral was in New York City, and burial at Gaylordsville, Connecticut where she had a summer home.


1957: Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg born (lawyer, writer; daughter of President John F. Kennedy)

  • American author and attorney. She is a member of the influential Kennedy family and the only living child of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.
  • At the time of her father’s presidency, she was a young child; after his assassination in 1963, her family settled in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where she attended school.
  • Kennedy graduated from Radcliffe College and worked at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she met her future husband, exhibit designer Edwin Schlossberg.
  • She went on to receive a J.D. degree from Columbia Law School. Kennedy’s professional life has spanned law and politics as well as education and charitable work.
  • She has also acted as a spokesperson for her family’s legacy and co-authored two books on civil liberties with Ellen Alderman.

Quote for Today

For mothers who must earn, there is indeed no leisure time problem. The long hours of earning are increased by the hours of domestic labor, until no slightest margin for relaxation or change of thought remains.

— Katharine Anthony

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