Elsie Clews Parsons

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Elsie Clews Parsons
Elsie Clews Parsons aboard Malabar V.jpg
Elsie Clews Parsons aboard her schooner, the Malabar V.
Born (1875-11-27)November 27, 1875
New York City
Died December 19, 1941(1941-12-19)
New York City
Education Ph.D. in Sociology, Columbia University (1899)
Occupation Anthropologist
Spouse(s) Herbert Parsons
Children Elsie ("Lissa," 1901)
John Edward (1903)
Herbert (1909)
Henry McIlvaine ("Mac", 1911).[1]
Parent(s) Henry Clews, Lucy Madison Worthington

Elsie Worthington Clews Parsons (November 27, 1875 – December 19, 1941) was an American anthropologist, sociologist, folklorist, and feminist who studied Native American tribes—such as the Tewa and Hopi—in Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico. She helped found The New School.[2] She was associate editor for The Journal of American Folklore (1918-1941), president of the American Folklore Society (1919-1920), president of the American Ethnological Society (1923-1925), and was elected the first female president of the American Anthropological Association (1941) right before her death.[3][4][5]

She earned her bachelor's degree from Barnard College in 1896.[6] She received her master’s degree (1897) and Ph.D. (1899) from Columbia University.[3]

Every other year, the American Ethnological Society awards the Elsie Clews Parsons Prize for the best graduate student essay, in her honor.[7][8]


Elsie Clews Parsons was the daughter of Henry Clews, a wealthy New York banker, and Lucy Madison Worthington. Her brother, Henry Clews, Jr. was an artist. On September 1, 1900, in Newport, Rhode Island,[9] she married future three-term progressive Republican congressman Herbert Parsons, an associate and political ally of President Teddy Roosevelt.[10] When her husband was a member of Congress, she published two then-controversial books under the pseudonym John Main.[11]

She became interested in anthropology in 1910.[4]

Her work Pueblo Indian Religion is considered a classic; here she gathered all her previous extensive work and that of other authors.[12]


Early works of sociology[edit]

  • The Family (1906)
  • Religious Chastity (1913)
  • The Old-Fashioned Woman (1913)
  • Fear and Conventionality (1914)
  • Social Freedom (1915)
  • Social Rule (1916)


  • The Social Organization of the Tewa of New Mexico (1929)
  • Hopi and Zuni Ceremonialism (1933)
  • Pueblo Indian Religion (1939)


  • Mitla: Town of the Souls (1936)
  • Peguche (1945)

Research in folklore[edit]

  • Folk-Lore from the Cape Verde Islands (1923)
  • Folk-Lore of the Sea Islands, S.C. (1924)
  • Folk-Lore of the Antilles, French and English (3v., 1933-1943).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Behavioral Psychologist Henry McIlvaine Parsons, 92, Dies". The Washington Post. 2004-08-01. 
  2. ^ Spier, Leslie, and A. L. Kroeber. "Elsie Clews Parsons", American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 45, No. 2, Centenary of the American Ethnological Society (Apr. - Jun., 1943), pp. 244-255
  3. ^ a b Del Monte, Kathleen; Karen Bachman; Catherine Klein; Bridget McCourt (1999-03-19). "Elsie Clews Parsons". Celebration of Women Anthropologists. University of South Florida. Retrieved 2007-05-16. 
  4. ^ a b "Elsie Clews Parsons Papers". American Philosophical Society. Archived from the original on 2007-03-10. Retrieved 2007-05-16. 
  5. ^ Gladys E. Reichard. 1943. Elsie Clews Parsons The Journal of American Folklore Vol. 56, No. 219, Elsie Clews Parsons Memorial Number (Jan. - Mar., 1943), pp. 45-48
  6. ^ Babcock, Barbara A.; Parezo, Nancy J. (1988). Daughters of the Desert: Women Anthropologists and the Native American Southwest, 1880-1980. University of New Mexico Press. p. 15. ISBN 0826310877. 
  7. ^ "Elsie Clews Parsons Prize". AESonline.org. American Ethnological Society. 2012-02-01. Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  8. ^ "2007 Elsie Clews Parsons Prize for Best Graduate Student Paper". AESonline.org. American Ethnological Society. 2007-04-02. Archived from the original on 2007-06-25. Retrieved 2007-05-16. 
  9. ^ "Miss Clews is Married". The New York Times (Newport, Massachusetts). 1900-09-02. p. 5. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  10. ^ Kennedy, Robert C. "Cartoon of the Day". HarpWeek. HarpWeek, LLC. Retrieved 2007-05-16. 
  11. ^ "Parsons, Elsie Clews". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-16. 
  12. ^ Gladys A. Reichard (June 20, 1950). The Elsie Clews Parsons collection Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society vol. 94, No. 3, Studies of Historical Documents in the Library of the American Philosophical Society. pp. 308–309. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]