Underhill, Ruth Murray (1883–1984)

Ruth Murray Underhill came to the field of anthropology as a middle-aged woman who had already tried marriage, social work, and novel writing. Born in 1883 to a Quaker family in Ossining, New York, she attended Vassar College and graduated in 1905 with an A.B. in English. Before World War I she was employed as a social worker in New York City. In 1920 she published her first novel, White Moth, about a successful businesswoman who must negotiate the strict gender roles of the workplace. After obtaining a divorce from Charles Crawford, she went directly to Columbia University, searching for a department that could help her to understand people. She landed in the Anthropology Department, in the office of Ruth Benedict.

At Columbia she also came ...

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