Beckwith, Martha Warren (1871–1959)

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Beckwith, Martha Warren (1871–1959)

American folklorist, ethnographer, teacher and author. Born in Wellesley Heights, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1871; died at age 88 in Berkeley, California, on January 28, 1959, and buried in Makawao cemetery, Maui; youngest child of George Ely and Harriet Winslowe (Goodale) Beckwith (both schoolteachers); grandniece ofLucy Goodale Thurston ; graduated from Mt. Holyoke College, 1893; obtained M.A. in anthropology, Columbia University, 1906.

A close childhood friend of naturalist Annie Alexander , Martha Beckwith grew up on Maui, surrounded by her cousins, especially the Alexanders and Baldwins. After graduating from Mt. Holyoke in Massachusetts, she returned to Hawaii to teach at Punahou School for two years. She then taught at Mt. Holyoke, Smith, and Vassar for the next ten years, before studying anthropology under Frank Boaz at Columbia. She returned to teaching at Vassar in 1920, retiring in 1938.

Beckwith's books are firsthand accounts of the folklore and ethnography of Hawaiians, Jamaicans, Native Americans, and the Portuguese residents of Goa. They include: The Hawaiian Romance of Laieikawai (1919); Folklore in America (1931); Hawaiian Mythology (1940); and The Kumulipo (1951), which was dedicated "to the memory of Annie M. Alexander, lifelong friend and comrade from early days in Hawaii."


Petersen, Barbara Bennett, ed. Notable Women of Hawaii. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984.

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Beckwith, Martha Warren (1871–1959)

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