Scope and Contents
The Frederica de Laguna papers house the personal papers of Frederica de Laguna, Bryn Mawr class of 1927 and founder of the Bryn Mawr anthropology department. The collection, which ranges from 1922-1975, holds photographs, newspaper clippings, miscellaneous anthropology clippings, travel postcards, letters, and various other materials.
The collection is divided into 13 series: “Series I: Family Photographs, undated;” “Series II: College Years Photographs, 1922-1926;” “Series III: Miscellaneous Photographs, 1920s to 1970s;” “Series IV: Photograph Albums, 1920s to 1930s;” “Series V: Framed Photographs and Bryn Mawr College Plaque, undated;” “Series VI: Miscellaneous Photographs and Objects, undated;” “Series VII: Wartime Clippings, World War II;” “Series VIII: Miscellaneous Clippings, undated;” “Series IX: Voyage to Greenland Papers, 1920;” “Series X: Plates for The Archaeology of Cook Inlet, 1975;” “Series XI: Faculty Book Collection, various;” “Series XII: Book Plates for Under Mount St. Elias, 1972;” “Series XIII: Negatives from Under Mount St. Elias, 1972.”
“Series I: Family Photographs, undated” contains photographs of de Laguna’s immediate family and their ancestors. “Series II: College Years Photographs, 1922-1926” contains pictures of Bryn Mawr College during de Laguna’s undergraduate years, including pictures of May Day, Grand May Day. It also contains pictures of de Laguna’s summers in Greensboro, Vermont. “Series III: Miscellaneous Photographs, 1920s to 1970s” holds various photos, including photographic portraits; a 1980 image of de Laguna with Constance Applebee; images from the 1967 and 1985 reunions; photographs of Wyndham Alumnae house, Rockefeller Basement, and Faculty Row. It also holds de Laguna’s business cards from the United States Naval Reserve. “Series IV: Photograph Albums, 1920s to 1930s” contains photos from New York State, France, and Bryn Mawr College, with unknown subjects. Additionally, it contains photos of the Lechmere-Qertel Family, 1933-1935, and photos of Frederica de Laguna with unknown subjects, undated. “Series V: Framed Photographs and Bryn Mawr College Plaque, undated” contains a number of framed photographs and a plaque. “Series VI: Miscellaneous Photographs and Objects, undated” houses various photographs and objects, including postcards and letters, travel photographs; photographs of Grace de Laguna and dick Oertel, 1903-1963; miscellaneous undated photographs, subjects unknown. “Series VII: Wartime Clippings, World War II” contains clippings about women in the military during World War II. “Series VIII: Miscellaneous Clippings, undated” contains miscellaneous undated anthropology clippings, miscellaneous anthropology materials, and miscellaneous wartime clippings. “Series IX: Voyage to Greenland Papers, 1920s” includes typescripts for her book Voyage to Greenland. “Series X: Plates for The Archaeology of Cook Inlet” contains plates for the 1975 edition of The Archaeology of Cook Inlet, de Laguna’s book on Cook Inlet, Alaska. “Series XI: Faculty Book Collection, various” consists of a large carton of books by other Bryn Mawr faculty members. “Series XII: Book Plates for Under Mount St. Elias, 1972” consists of bookplate illustrations and negatives from Under Mount St. Elias, de Laguna’s book on the history and culture of the Yakutat Tlingit.
De Laguna was a pioneer anthropologist in the study of Arctic cultures. She both initiated and shaped Bryn Mawr College’s anthropology department for many years. This collection provides an interesting view into her professional career as an anthropologist, but also evidences her college life at Bryn Mawr, time in the Navy, and family relationships. As a whole, the collection provides a multi-dimensional view of a complex individual, and would be of interest to anyone curious about de Laguna, her studies in the Arctic, or Bryn Mawr College.
Biographical / Historical
Frederica de Laguna (1906-2004) was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1906. Both her parents taught philosophy at Bryn Mawr College from the time that she was an infant. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science and economics from Bryn Mawr College in 1927. Her first memoir was "Voyage to Greenland," about her first anthropology field work, published in 1929. She earned a doctorate in anthropology from Columbia University in 1933. Her first job was field director for the University Museum at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1938 she began teaching anthropology at Bryn Mawr College, a position she held until retiring in 1975. During World War II, de Laguna took a break from her academic career to serve as a lieutenant commanded in the Navy Waves. She led many expeditions to Alaska to study the cultures of Eskimos and Native Americans. She assisted Dr. Therkel Mathiassen on the first scientific survey of sites in Danish West Greenland. Her major work began in 1949 with trips to study the Tlingit Indians, resulting in the comprehensive study of their culture titled "Under Mount St. Elias," published in 1972. She also wrote two mystery novels. In retirement, she continued to write and lecture at several major universities.