Protégé of Elsie Clews Parsons and Franz Boas, founder and head of Barnard College's anthropology department, and a trailblazer in Native American linguistics and anthropology, Gladys Reichard (1893–1955) is one of America’s least appreciated anthropologists. Her accomplishments were obscured in her lifetime by differences in intellectual approach and envy, as well as academic politics and the gender realities of her age. Reichard's approach to Native languages put her at odds with Edward Sapir, leader of the structuralist movement in American linguistics. Similarly, Reichard’s focus on Native psychology as revealed to her by Native artists and storytellers produced a dramatically different style of ethnography from that of Margaret Mead, who relied on western psychological archetypes to “crack” alien cultural codes, often at a distance.
Nancy Mattina's Uncommon Anthropologist: Gladys Reichard and Western Native American Culture (University of Oklahoma Press, 2019) is the first full biography of Reichard, and examines her pathbreaking work in the ethnography of ritual and mythology; Wiyot, Coeur d’Alene, and Navajo linguistics; folk art, gender, and language; and her exceptional career of teaching, editing, publishing, and mentoring.
In this episode of the podcast Nancy talk to host Alex Golub about Reichard's life, her remarkable ethnography Spider Woman, her career as a teacher (including as an instructor of Zora Neale Hurston), how academic politics can erase people from disciplinary memory, and why Reichard's 'humanitarian' values are needed now more than ever.
Nancy Mattina holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics and is retired faculty and founder of the Writing & Learning Commons at Prescott College, Arizona. She is a contributor to Studies in Salish Linguistics in Honor of M. Dale Kinkade.
Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He is the author of the article "" as well as other books and articles.