February 27, 2006

New Goucher Notable Exhibit

Hortense Powdermaker
Hortense Powdermaker, 1896-1970, majored in history at Goucher and received her Bachelors Degree in 1921. She entered theLondon School of Economicsand Political Science in 1925 and it was there that she took a class in social anthropology and was quoted as saying, "Anthropology was what I had been looking for without knowing it." Powdermaker continued her studies in the field and began to work under the noted anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski. With Malinowski's encouragement, she worked to receive her Ph.D. in 1928.

Powdermaker went on to conduct a year-long field study of late Stone-age Melanesian society in Lesu,  a small village on the island of New Ireland off Papa New Guinea.A book on the study, Life in Lesu, was published in 1933.

In 1932, she went to Indianola, Mississippi to study modern day culture, and is considered the first to do so using the standard anthropological methods for field work in non-industrial societies. Her next book, After Freedom (1939), an analysis of black-white interaction, is based on this study. After the war, she carried out a research project in Hollywood, where she used the same approach to analyze how the social system in which movies are made influences their content and meaning. The result was her 1950 book, Hollywood, the Dream Factory.

From 1953 to 1954, Powdermaker conducted her next field study in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), which resulted in the publishing of CopperTown in 1962.

Her final book, an autobiography titled Stranger and Friend: The Way of an Anthropologist (1966), was hailed for its candor and insight into the anthropological enterprise.

During her lifetime, Hortense Powdermaker received the following honors: Presidency of the American Ethnological Society, Honorary Doctorate from Goucher College, and Distinguished Teacher Award of the Alumni Association of Queens College.


Silverman, Sydel, "Hortense Powdermaker," Women Anthropolgists: Selected Biographies. Edited by U. Gacs, J McIntyre and R Weinberg. University of Illinois Press.

Biographical information from Minnesota State University