Eleanor Leacock

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Eleanor Leacock
Born(1922-07-02)July 2, 1922
DiedApril 2, 1987(1987-04-02) (aged 64)
Richard Leacock (m. 1941–1962)
James Haughton (m. 1966–1987)
Awards1983 New York Academy Sciences Award for the Behavioral Sciences

Eleanor Burke Leacock (July 2, 1922 – April 2, 1987) was an anthropologist and social theorist who made major contributions to the study of egalitarian societies,[1] the evolution of the status of women in society,[2] Algonkian ethnohistory,[3] historical materialism, and the feminist movement.[4][5]

Early life[edit]

Leacock was born on July 2, 1922, in New Jersey.[6] Her mother, Lily, was a mathematician and her father was the literary critic, philosopher, and writer Kenneth Burke. Leacock did her undergraduate work at Barnard College[7] and Radcliffe College. She completed her graduate training at Columbia University. In 1941, she married filmmaker Richard Leacock with whom she had four children. The couple divorced in 1962 and in 1966 Leacock married civil rights and union activist James Haughton.[8]

Her doctoral work, advised by William Duncan Strong and Gene Weltfish, comprised ethnohistorical research and fieldwork in Labrador, Canada, among the Montagnais-Naskapi people. Her interviews and research challenged the normative view, proposed by ethnographers Frank Speck and Loren Eisley, that the Montagnais-Naskapi had traditionally observed private land tenure practices. Leacock demonstrated instead that attitudes and practices regarding land had been transformed by colonial contact and the fur trade.[3]


She worked at Bank Street College of Education as a senior research associate, from 1958 to 1965,[7] and at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in the social sciences department, from 1963 to 1972.[7] She struggled to get a full-time job during the 1950s due to her outspoken political views.[9] She taught as an adjunct for decades before being appointed, in 1972, as a professor and chair of anthropology[7] at City College (CCNY) and graduate faculty of City University of New York Graduate Center.[7] Although highly qualified, Leacock credited her CCNY appointment to the rise of the women's movement and social pressure felt by City College to diversify its faculty.[10] Her appointment coincided with the publication of her celebrated introduction to Friedrich Engels' The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State. In that introduction, she cited contemporary research to further explicate Engels' theory that "the historic defeat of the female sex" and subjugation of women began with the stratification of society, the widespread practice of private property, and the emergence of a state.[11]

One of Leacock's most fruitful contributions to the field of anthropology was her essay entitled "Interpreting the Origins of Gender Inequality: Conceptual and Historical Problems" (1983), in which she discussed gender inequalities.

Leacock's career involved four major regions: North America, Europe, Africa, and the Pacific. In these areas she studied various topics including the anthropology of education, women cross culturally, foraging societies, etc.[12]

Leacock died in 1987 in Hawaii.[6]

Works and publications[edit]

  • dissertation, The Montagnais "Hunting Territory" and the Fur Trade (American Anthropological Association (Memoir 78))[7][failed verification]
  • Teaching and Learning in City Schools: A Comparative Study (NY: Basic Books, 1969)[7][failed verification]
  • editor, A Culture of Poverty: Critique (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1971)[7][failed verification]
  • editor, then-recent edition, Morgan, Ancient Society
  • editor, then-recent edition, Engels, Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State[7][failed verification]
  • editor with Nancy Lurie, North American Indians in Historical Perspective (NY: Random House, 1971) [7][failed verification]
  • author, essay, "Women's Status in Egalitarian Society: Implications for Social Evolution", Current Anthropology (1992, volume 33, supplement)[7]


  1. ^ Politics and History in Band Societies, Eleanor Leacock and Richard Lee, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press. 1982)
  2. ^ Eleanor Leacock, 1977. Women, Development, and Anthropological Facts and Fictions. Latin American Perspectives. 4(1/2): 8-17.
  3. ^ a b Eleanor Burke Leacock. The Montagnais "hunting territory" and the fur trade. (Menasha, WI: American Anthropological Association. 1954)
  4. ^ McGee & Warms Anthropological Theory 4th ed. McGraw Hill: 2009
  5. ^ "Eleanor Burke Leacock By Kristin Alten, posted May 1998". Archived from the original on 2012-07-31. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
  6. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-31. Retrieved 2012-07-24.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Biographical note for Leacock, Eleanor, Women's Status in Egalitarian Society: Implications for Social Evolution, in Current Anthropology, vol. 33, no. 1, supp. Inquiry and Debate in the Human Sciences: Contributions from Current Anthropology, 1960–1990 (Feb., 1992 (ISSN 0011-3204 & E-ISSN 1537-5382)), p. 225 (essay originally appeared in Current Anthropology, vol. 19, no. 2 (Jun., 1978)).
  8. ^ Notable American women : a biographical dictionary completing the twentieth century. Ware, Susan, 1950-, Braukman, Stacy Lorraine., Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press. 2004. p. 374. ISBN 067401488X. OCLC 56014756.CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. ^ David H. Price. Threatening anthropology : McCarthyism and the FBI's surveillance of activist anthropologists. (Durham: Duke University Press.2004)p. 363.
  10. ^ Eleanor Burke Leacock. Myths of male dominance: collected articles on women cross-culturally. (New York, Monthly Review Press.1981) p. 7.
  11. ^ Engels, Frederick, 1972 [1888], Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, NY: International Publishers, pp. 120-121.
  12. ^ Sutton, Constance R.; Lee, Richard (1990). "Eleanor Burke Leacock (1922-1987)". American Anthropologist: 201–205. doi:10.2307/681402. JSTOR 681402.

External links[edit]