A LIFE WELL LED
The Biography of Barbara Freire-Marreco Aitken, British Anthropologist
By Mary Ellen Blair
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What would inspire a proper young British woman, well-educated and devoted to the Church of England, to venture forth from a sheltered academic life of the early 20th century to cross an ocean in order to conduct investigations on a people that she considered "uncivilized?" To answer this question, the author collected Barbara Freire-Marreco Aitken's correspondence, most of which has never been published, and with editing, annotating, and researched explanations completed the gestalt resulting in a biography that is a cohesive and interesting adventure story.
This remarkable second generation British anthropologist lived with Native American pueblo people and visited reservations in the Southwest United States, contributing to the knowledge about and understanding of these people. The dearth of exposure of her experiences makes this a long overdue compilation of her life and work.
Even those with little interest in her focus of anthropology and ethnology will find this life story interesting because of the period of time in which she lived, especially because she was a British woman in territory that only recently had become part of the United States.
An avid interest in the art and culture of the American Indian has been of importance to Mary Ellen Blair since her early years. A graduate of Rutgers University in Art History, where she served as president of Kappa Pi Honorary Art Fraternity, her focus turned more and more to the western regions of the United States, particularly the pueblos of the Southwest and their pottery. A forced, but fortunate, move eventually brought her to New Mexico where she continued to add to her collection as well as serving as a participant and judge at various Southwest Indian art shows. She and her husband, Laurence Blair, have written books on Pueblo pottery and this in turn led her to discover and investigate the life of a remarkable British anthropologist. After more than ten years devoted to research in museums, universities, and personal interviews in both the United States and Great Britain, this biography is the result.
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