Skip to main content

Frederica de Laguna papers

Identifier: BMC-1975-06

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 an anthropologist who studied Arctic cultures. She both initiated and shaped Bryn Mawr College’s anthropology department for many years. This collection provides a view into her professional career as an anthropologist, her college life at Bryn Mawr, time in the Navy, and family relationships. As a whole, the collection would be of interest to anyone curious about de Laguna, her studies in the Arctic, or Bryn Mawr College.


  • Creation: 1922 - 1975


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Frederica de Laguna papers are the physical property of Bryn Mawr College Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the author's legal heirs and assigns.

Biographical / Historical

Frederica de Laguna (1906-2004) was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1906. Her parents, Grace and Theodore de Laguna, began teaching philosophy at Bryn Mawr College shortly after Frederica's birth. Frederica de Laguna 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 foray into anthropological field work, published in 1929. She earned a doctorate in anthropology from Columbia University in 1933. Her first job after receiving her doctorate was as 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 her retirement 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. Her anthropological work focused extensively on the Indigenous cultures of Alaska and the Arctic. 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 Tlingit culture, resulting in her book "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.


12 linear ft.

Language of Materials



The papers of Frederica de Laguna consist of family and personal photographs, collections of clippings, typescripts, and publication materials of this Bryn Mawr College professor and scholar in anthropology, who studied Arctic cultures.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Much of this material came to the Bryn Mawr College Archives in 1975 following de Laguna's retirement. Over the years, she added to the collection various photographs and other family memorabilia. She also added collections of clippings and typescripts and publication materials for her various works. From time to time she also took materials away. The current collection reflects what was left of the collection at the time of her death in 2004.

Frederica de Laguna papers
Lorett Treese, Melissa Torquato
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting repoductions from Bryn Mawr College Library

Bryn Mawr College Library
101 N. Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr 19010 USA US