Carobeth Laird

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Carobeth (Tucker) Laird
Born July 20, 1895
Coleman, Texas
Died August 5, 1983
Occupation Writer, ethnologist

Carobeth (Tucker) Laird (July 20, 1895 – August 5, 1983) is known for her memoirs and ethnographic studies of the Chemehuevi people of southeastern California and western Arizona. Her book, The Chemehuevi, was characterized by ethnographer Lowell John Bean (1985:5) as "one of the finest, most detailed ethnographies ever written." Her memoirs, "Encounter with an Angry God" and "Limbo," chronicled her first marriage to lingustic anthropologist John P. Harrington and her time in a nursing home, respectively.

Carobeth Tucker was born in Coleman, Texas. In 1915, she took a course in linguistics at San Diego Normal School that was taught by John P. Harrington, an extremely productive and eccentric linguist and ethnographer. Harrington was impressed by her natural linguistic abilities, and they were married the following year. She assisted him in his field work and learned ethnographic skills from him, but his eccentricities proved fatal to their relationship. Later in her life, Carobeth accounted her relationship with John P. Harrington in her book "Encounter with an Angry God." They were divorced in 1922. Later, Carobeth married George Laird, her principal Chemehuevi informant.

During the period prior to George Laird's death in 1940, Carobeth Laird collected extensive information on the Chemehuevi, particularly concerning language and mythology. She came to the attention of the scholarly world in the early 1970s, when she was "discovered" by students of Lowell Bean. Her ethnographic studies were published in two books, The Chemehuevi (1976) and Mirror and Pattern (1984), as well as several articles in the Journal of California Anthropology.

Her memoir "Limbo" describes her experience living in a nursing home and her experience of time. While it was a text popular at the time of publication, it is now taught in medical schools and nursing programs as a way to help medical students understand concepts of time.

Laird's letters and manuscripts are on file at the University of California, Riverside.


  • Bean, Lowell John. 1985. "Memorial to Carobeth Laird (1895-1983)". Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 7:3-6.
  • Laird, Carobeth. 1975. Encounter with an Angry God: Recollections of My Life with John Peabody Harrington. Malki Museum Press, Banning, California. ISBN 978-0-8263-1414-7
  • Laird, Carobeth. 1976. The Chemehuevis. Malki Museum Press, Banning, California.
  • Laird, Carobeth. 1979. Limbo. Chandler & Sharp, Novato, California. ISBN 978-0-88316-536-2
  • Laird, Carobeth. 1984. Mirror and Pattern: George Laird's World of Chemehuevi Mythology. Malki Museum Press, Banning, California.
  • Lawton, Harry W. 1976. "Forward". In The Chemehuevis, by Carobeth Laird, pp. vii-xii. Malki Museum Press, Banning, California.