Smithsonian Collections Blog

Highlighting the hidden treasures from over 2 million collections

Collections Search Center

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Images from the Ruth Landes papers

Over 1000 photographs from the Ruth Landes papers are now available to view online on SIRIS. The photographs were digitized and cataloged thanks to the financial support of the Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund. 
Ruth Landes, circa 1935

Both in her professional and personal life, anthropologist Ruth Landes was a woman before her times. Although she is now considered a pioneer in the study of race and gender relations, her work was largely unacknowledged during her lifetime. She struggled professionally for most of her life and did not obtain a permanent faculty position at a university until she was in her late 50s.

Born Ruth Schlossberg to Jewish immigrants in 1908 in New York City, her father was an activist in the Yiddish labor socialist community and one of the founders of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. In 1929, she married Victor Landes at the age of 21; however, the marriage did not last long. In 1931, her husband divorced her when, despite his objections, she enrolled in the doctoral program in anthropology at Columbia University. Landes kept her married name due to the stigma of being a divorced woman.

Maggie Wilson, circa 1933
From 1932-1936, Landes conducted fieldwork among the Ojibwa in Ontario; the Chippewa of Red Lake, Minnesota; the Santee Dakota in Minnesota; and the Potawatomi in Kansas. Her book Ojibwa Women, written in collaboration with Maggie Wilson, an Ojibwa interpreter and informant, is considered a classic in the study of gender relations in a native society.

Landes with Martiniano, 1938
Another seminal work, The City of Women, is based on her field research on the role of Afro-Brazilian women and homosexuals in the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé in Salvador, Brazil. Her research, conducted in 1938-1939, ended sooner than she had planned when she was suspected of being a communist by the local police and forced to leave the city. Landes was not a communist, but she was romantically involved with Edison Carniero, an Afro-Brazilian journalist with communist ties. Her photos from Brazil, which comprise the bulk of the photographs in her papers, include images of Carneiro, prominent Candomblé figures such as Martiniano and high priestesses Mae Meninha and Mae Aninha, as well as ceremonies, festivals, and capoeira matches.

Margaret Mead and Catherine Bateson, 1960

Other highlights in the collection include photos of eminent anthropological figures such as Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead, as well as photos of physicist Elmer S. Imes, with whom she had a clandestine affair when she taught at Fisk University in 1937-1938.

View the finding aid to learn more about Ruth Landes and her papers at the National Anthropological Archives. Click here to view more of her photographs.

Lorain Wang, National Anthropological Archives

No comments:

Post a Comment