Theodora Kracaw Kroeber

(1897-1979)

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Theodora Kroeber was a talented writer and anthropologist, best known for her interpretations of the oral traditions of several Native Californian cultures. Born in Colorado, she spent her childhood there before moving to California. In 1919 she earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology from the University of California at Berkeley. Continuing her graduate work there, she met and married Alfred Kroeber, and her interests turned to anthropology. His work with Ishi, the last Californian Yahi Indian, inspired Theodora to turn her focus to Indian folklore and life. She later published Ishi in Two Worlds, as well as a children’s version of the same work.

Theodora's writing style was pleasing and personal to the reader, and she was able to reach an audience outside the academy. "In The Inland Whale she retold a number of California Indian folktales in her own idiom, having selected, not the best-known tales, but those with a heroine and those bearing the stamp of one individual’s originality" (Gacs 1989:190).

Although Theodora never completed her doctoral work, that did not prevent her from achieving a great deal throughout her life, and we honor her as a dedicated and sensitive interpreter of Native American culture.

Selected Works by Theodora Kroeberwhalebook.jpg (7367 bytes)

1959    The Inland Whale. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

1961    Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America. Berkeley: University of California Press.

1964    Ishi: The Last of His Tribe. Berkeley: Parnassus Press.

1968    Almost Ancestors: The First Californians. San Francisco: Sierra Club. (co-authored with Robert F. Heizer).

1970    Alfred Kroeber: A Personal Configuration. Berkeley: University of California Press.

1979    Ishi, the Last Yahi: A Documentary History. Berkeley: University of California Press. (co-edited with Robert F. Heizer).

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She "rendered her stories amenable to the literate Westerner without knowledge of ethnology by cutting detail, eliminating endless repetition, sharpening the sense of plot and denouement, and above all by translating freely in her own sensitive, almost lyrical style" (Walter Goldschmidt’s Book Review of The Inland Whale, 1959: 1153).

 

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Links of Interest

*Ishi Photos                 *Northern California Trails

*Recent Ishi News       *More Ishi History

 

Sources

Buzaljko, Grace Wilson
1989    Theodora Kracaw Kroeber. In Ute Gacs et.al (eds)Women Anthropologists: A Biographical Dictionary. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Elsasser, Albert B.
1980    Theodora Kroeber-Quinn, 1897-1979. American Anthropologist 82:114-115.

Goldschmidt, Walter
1959    Review of The Inland Whale by Theodora Kroeber. American Anthropologist 61: 1153-54.

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