Martha Warren Beckwith

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Martha Warren Beckwith (January 19, 1871 – January 28, 1959) was an American folklorist and ethnographer, appointed to the first chair in Folklore established in the U.S.[1] She was born in Wellesley Heights, Massachusetts.[2]

Education and academic career[edit]

Beckwith graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1893 and taught English at Elmira College, Mount Holyoke, Vassar College, and Smith College. In 1906, she obtained a Master of Arts degree in anthropology after studying under Franz Boas at Columbia University, and she received her Doctor of Philosophy in 1918.[2] In 1920, Beckwith was appointed to the chair in Folklore at Vassar College, making her the first person to hold a chair in Folklore at any college or university in the United States. She became a full professor in 1929 and retired in 1938.[1]


Jamaica Anansi Stories

Beckwith conducted research in a variety of European and Middle Eastern countries, but her most extensive research focused on Hawaii, Jamaica, and the Sioux and Mandan-Hidatsa Native American Reservations in North Dakota and South Dakota where she was inducted into the Prairie Chicken Clan of the Mandan-Hidatsa.[1]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Folk-Games of Jamaica (with music recorded in the field by Helen H. Roberts). Poughkeepsie, N. Y.: Vassar College, 1922.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Christmas Mummings in Jamaica. Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: Vassar College, 1923.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Black Roadways: A Study of Jamaican Folk Life. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1929.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Polynesian Analogues to the Celtic Other-World and Fairy Mistress Themes. New Haven, C.T.: Yale University Press, 1923.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Jamaica Anansi Stories (with music recorded in the field by Helen Roberts). New York: American Folklore Society, 1924.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Jamaica Proverbs. Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: Vassar College, 1925.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Notes on Jamaican Ethnobotany. Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: Vassar College, 1927.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Jamaica Folk-Lore. New York: American Folk-Lore Society. 1928.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Myths and Hunting Stories of the Mandan and Hidatsa Sioux. Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: Vassar College, 1930.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Mandan-Hidatsa Myths and Ceremonies. New York: American Folk-Lore Society, 1937.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Hawaiian Mythology. New Haven, C.T.: Yale University Press, 1940.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. The Kumulipo: A Hawaiian Creation Chant. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951.


  1. ^ a b c "Martha Beckwith". Vassar Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  2. ^ a b Katharine Luomala (October–December 1962). "Martha Warren Beckwith. A Commemorative Essay". The Journal of American Folklore. JSTOR 538369. 

External links[edit]