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Esther Schiff Goldfrank

Although she never earned a degree in anthropology or taught a class, Esther Schiff Goldfrank made significant contributions to the field through her studies of communities as disparate as Pueblo Indians and New Yorkers. Goldfrank earned a degree in economics from Barnard in 1918 and went on a brief expedition to the Southwest with Franz Boas in 1921, doing studies of Pueblo women and the recipes they handed down. In 1922 she married and left anthropology to raise a family in White Plains, New York. She returned to anthropology in 1935, studying the families at her daughter’s school, Fieldston, in the Bronx. She analyzed the tensions between the community’s older, secularized Jews and the nouveau riche families that observed Jewish holidays. After doing fieldwork with Ruth Benedict in 1939, she challenged Benedict’s theories on the Pueblo personality, arguing that Benedict’s division of South America into Apollonian (rational) and Dionysian (emotion-driven) cultures didn’t fit her own observations. Instead, she discussed the importance of irrigation to Pueblo social structure, religion, and gender roles, comparing it to China and Egypt. In 1948, Goldfrank became president of the American Ethnological Society and from 1952–1956 she edited its monograph series.

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More on Esther Schiff Goldfrank
Date of Birth
May 5, 1896
Place of Birth
New York, New York
Date of Death
April 23, 1997

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Esther Schiff Goldfrank ." (Viewed on January 22, 2018) <>.


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