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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Isabel T. Kelly: Pioneer Great Basin Ethnographer


Isabel Truesdell Kelly (1906–1982) was an indefatigable field worker, often in rigorous situations that would challenge even the most seasoned outdoors person with all of the modern gear of today. She worked in the western United States, many rugged areas of Mexico, and also in Central and South America, as well as Pakistan. Archaeology was her “ rst love,” although she did major ethnographic studies and made many contributions to applied anthropology. Theory was not her strong interest, but deep description was, in whatever she was pursuing. Her employment career was outside of academe, owing in part to the period in which she took her graduate training (late 1920s-early 1930s), as well as to circumstances that led her in her early years to spend most of her life in Mexico. But she remains a seminal gure in anthropology, as a pioneer in several geographic areas (including the Great Basin), and—in spite of what was then a non-traditional career path—as a role model for women.

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