Martha Warren Beckwith


Martha Warren Beckwith (January 19, 1871 – January 28, 1959) was an American folklorist and ethnographer, appointed to the first chair in Folklore established in the U.S.[1] She was born in Wellesley Heights, Massachusetts.[2]

Martha Warren Beckwith
Martha Beckwith.jpg
Born(1871-01-19)January 19, 1871
DiedJanuary 18, 1959(1959-01-18) (aged 87)
EducationMount Holyoke College
Alma materColumbia University
Scientific career
InstitutionsVassar College
Academic advisorsFranz Boas

Education and academic careerEdit

Beckwith graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1893 and taught English at Elmira College, Mount Holyoke, Vassar College, and Smith College. In 1906, she obtained a Master of Arts degree in anthropology after studying under Franz Boas at Columbia University, and she received her Doctor of Philosophy in 1918.[2] In 1920, Beckwith was appointed to the chair in Folklore at Vassar College, making her the first person to hold a chair in Folklore at any college or university in the United States. She became a full professor in 1929 and retired in 1938.[1]


Jamaica Anansi Stories

Beckwith conducted research in a variety of European and Middle Eastern countries, but her most extensive research focused on Hawaii, Jamaica, and the Sioux and Mandan-Hidatsa Native American Reservations in North Dakota and South Dakota where she was inducted into the Prairie Chicken Clan of the Mandan-Hidatsa.[1]

Selected bibliographyEdit

  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Folk-Games of Jamaica (with music recorded in the field by Helen H. Roberts). Poughkeepsie, N. Y.: Vassar College, 1922.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Christmas Mummings in Jamaica. Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: Vassar College, 1923.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Black Roadways: A Study of Jamaican Folk Life. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1929.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Polynesian Analogues to the Celtic Other-World and Fairy Mistress Themes. New Haven, C.T.: Yale University Press, 1923.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Jamaica Anansi Stories (with music recorded in the field by Helen Roberts). New York: American Folklore Society, 1924.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Jamaica Proverbs. Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: Vassar College, 1925.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Notes on Jamaican Ethnobotany. Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: Vassar College, 1927.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Jamaica Folk-Lore. New York: American Folk-Lore Society. 1928.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Myths and Hunting Stories of the Mandan and Hidatsa Sioux. Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: Vassar College, 1930.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Mandan-Hidatsa Myths and Ceremonies. New York: American Folk-Lore Society, 1937.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. Hawaiian Mythology. New Haven, C.T.: Yale University Press, 1940.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren. The Kumulipo: A Hawaiian Creation Chant. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951.


  1. ^ a b c "Martha Beckwith". Vassar Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Katharine Luomala (October–December 1962). "Martha Warren Beckwith. A Commemorative Essay". The Journal of American Folklore. 75 (298): 341–353. doi:10.2307/538369. JSTOR 538369.

External linksEdit

  • Works by Martha Warren Beckwith at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Martha Warren Beckwith at Internet Archive
  • Books by Martha Warren Beckwith at the Online Books Page, University of Pennsylvania Library.
  • Hawaiian Mythology by Martha Warren Beckwith (digitized text at Sacred Texts Archive)
  • The Kumulipo, a Hawaiian Creation Chant by Martha Warren Beckwith (digitized text at Sacred Texts Archive)
  • Jamaica Anansi Stories by Martha Warren Beckwith (digitized text at Sacred Texts Archive)