Dorothy D. Lee

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Dorothy Demetracopolou Lee (1905–1975) was an American anthropologist, author and philosopher of cultural anthropology. Born in Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman Empire, she was Greek by birth and was educated, married, and raised her four children in the U.S.[1]

She graduated from Vassar College in 1927 and then pursued her graduate studies at the University of California-Berkeley, where she studied under Alfred Kroeber and Robert Lowie. In 1931, based on research on the Loon Woman myth among northern Californian Indians, she became the third female anthropologist at Berkeley to earn her doctorate at Berkeley. She then briefly taught anthropology at the University of Washington and Sarah Lawrence College, before accepting a more permanent teaching position at Vassar College in 1939 and remaining there until 1953. Here she raised her four children and occasionally published in academic journals. Dr. Lee has written about the languages of the Wintu, Hopi, Tikopia, Trobriand, and many other cultures. Of particular significance is her theoretically-innovative 1950 article "Lineal and Nonlineal Codifications of Reality," first published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine No.12, pp. 89–97. As a cultural anthropologist, her work is most often associated with Benjamin Whorf.[2]

In 1953, she accepted a position at the Merrill-Palmer Institute, now The Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development, Wayne State University in Detroit.[3]

From 1959 to 1962, she was a lecturer and research anthropologist at Harvard University. Next, she accepted an invitation from Edmund Carpenter to teach in the newly formed anthropology program at San Fernando State College, later renamed California State University-Northridge. Several other brief appointments at other universities followed. She finally settled down in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she died in 1975.[4][5]

Her essays employ anthropological data to explore questions of individual autonomy, the joy of participation, equality of opportunity, freedom and responsibility.[6]



  1. ^ Freedom and Culture, Dorothy Lee, A Spectrum Book, 1961, p. 0, L. C. Cat. Card No.: 59-15584, (c) 1959, by Dorothy Lee
  2. ^ Language Diversity and Thought: A Reformulation of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis, John Arthur Lucy, Cambridge University Press, 1992, p. 70, ISBN 0-521-38797-3
  3. ^ Freedom and Culture, Dorothy Lee, A Spectrum Book, 1961, p. 0, L. C. Cat. Card No.: 59-15584, (c) 1959, by Dorothy Lee
  4. ^ Anthropology News Vol.16 (6), p. 3
  5. ^ About the IIS, The Institute for Intercultural Studies website
  6. ^ Wiley Online Library, American Anthropologist Vol 62, Issue6