Gladys Amanda Reichard

portrait.jpg (57675 bytes)Gladys Reichard was a noted cultural and linguistic anthropologist, best known for her work with the Navajo. Born in 1893 in Bangor, Pennsylvania, she was raised in an intellectually stimulating Quaker family. Before attending college, she taught elementary school for six years. In 1919 she received a degree in the classics from Swarthmore, where she discovered anthropology in her senior year. She went on to Columbia University where she earned her Masters degree in 1920 and her Ph.D. in 1925. She began teaching at Barnard College in 1921, and remained on their faculty until her death in 1955.

Her main focus of study was Navajo lifestyles. She wrote many books about their language, culture and customs. As Gladys never married and had children, she was able to devote herself full time to her research. Many summers in a row she lived and worked among the Navajo in the southwestern United States learning their language, art, religion, and weaving techniques. Much of her work and research among the Navajo was financially possible because of the generosity of Elsie Clews Parsons. Reichard's 1928 work, Social Life ofnavajo1.gif (14816 bytes) the Navajo Indians, was based on her collection of detailed geneaological data stretching back nine and ten generations. She used contemporary interviews, not only to build a thorough understanding of life as it was lived at the time, but also to analyze the experience of several generations, based on information from the people she interviewed. She spent a great deal of time researching symbolism as it was used in Navajo art, religion and language. Her work Navajo Religion "is admired by some historically minded anthropologists as an unusually complete presentation of a people’s symbol system in its own terms in all its complexities" (Leacock 1989:305).

Navajo Sandpainting "Big Thunder"

Her scholarship in the field of Navajo religion and prayer "opened up a whole new field in religion which has yet failed to be explored" (Smith 1956:914).   Reichard tended to focus many of her books on women and their roles. "In both her teaching and writing, Reichard evinced her commitment to contradicting stereotypic views of women’s dependence, and her commitment to advancing their professional lives" (Leacock 1989:306). Professionally she was active in a number of organizations and held several offices as well. For eleven years she served as secretary of the American Folk-Lore Society from 1924-1935. She also served as secretary for the American Ethnological Society from 1924-1926. For many years she also held membership to the International Federation of University Women Committee for the Award of Fellowships and served as their Convenor after 1947.

Today, Reichard is remembered as an anthropologist who did pioneering work on Navajo culture, and is a woman who pointed to the importance of women's roles and perspectives in gaining a complete understanding of any culture.

navajoblanket.gif (41163 bytes)Selected Works by or about Gladys Amanda Reichard

Frazier, Lessie Jo
1994    Genre, Methodology and Feminist Practice: Gladys Reichard's Ethnographic Voice. In Ruth Behar (ed.) Women Writing Culture. London: Sage.

Lamphere, Louise
1986    Gladys Reichard Among the Navajo. In Daughters of the Desert: Women Anthropologists in the Southwest, 1880-1980. B. Babcock and N. Parezo, eds. Tucson: Arizona State Museum.

Reichard, Gladys Amanda

1928    Social Life of the Navajo Indians. New York: Columbia University Press.
1934    Spider Woman: A Story of Navajo Weavers and Chanters. New York: Macmillan.
1936    Navajo Shepherd and Weaver. New York: J.J. Augustin.
1939    Dezba, Woman of the Desert. New York: J.J. Augustin.
1939    Navajo Medicine Man, Sandpaintings and Legends of Miguelito. New York: J.J. Augustin.
1950    Navajo Religion: A Study in Symbolism. 2 vols. Bollingen Series 18. New York: Pantheon.

Interesting Links

Arizona State Museum                         Indian Country Today         Hubbell Trading Post

Native American Indian Resources        Native American Sites        Navajo Nation

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Leacock, Eleanor
1989    Gladys Amanda Reichard. In Women Anthropologists. Ute Gacs et al. eds. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Pp. 303-309.

Reichard, Gladys Amanda
1936    Navajo Shepherd and Weaver. New York: J.J. Augustin.
1939    Navajo Medicine Man, Sandpaintings and Legends of Miguelito. New York: J.J. Augustin.

Smith, Marian W.
1956    Gladys Armanda Reichard. American Anthropologist 58(5): 913-916.

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