Skip to main content

Elsie Clews Parsons

Inventing Modern Life

Elsie Clews Parsons was a pioneering feminist, an eminent anthropologist, and an ardent social critic. In Elsie Clews Parsons, Desley Deacon reconstructs Parsons’s efforts to overcome gender biases in both academia and society.

"Wonderfully illuminating. . . . Parsons’s work resonates strikingly to current trends in anthropology."—George W. Stocking, Jr., Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"This is the biography of a woman so interesting and effective—a cross between Margaret Mead and Georgia O’Keeffe. . . . A nuanced portrait of this vivid woman."—Tanya Luhrmann, New York Times Book Review

"A marvelous new book about the life of Elsie Clews Parsons. . . . It’s as though she is sitting on the next rock, a contemporary struggling with the same issues that confront women today: how to combine work, love and child-rearing into one life."—Abigail Trafford, Washington Post

"Parsons’s splendid life and work continue to illuminate current puzzles about acculturation and diversity."—New Yorker

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Maps
Prologue: Strength to Forget the Past
Part One: Looking Forward
1. The Young Adventuress
2. Travels of the Mind
3. The Experimental Life
Part Two: We Secessionists...
4. The Voyage Out
5. New Science
6. New Woman
7. New Marriage
8. Dear Propagandist
9. The End of the Conversation
Part Three: Trans-National America
10. Saving Herself
11. The Other Continents among Us
12. Disciplinary Politics
13. Jessica at Fifty
14. Other Americas
Part Four: All Serene
15. Elsie’s Lifework—Con Amore
16. A Modernist Death
Epilogue by Catherine R. Stimpson
Archival and Oral History Sources
Bibliography of Elsie Clews Parsons, 1896-1962

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press