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October 2015 Vol. 53 No. 2

University of Nebraska Press

The following review appeared in the October 2015 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Social & Behavioral Sciences

Seymour, Susan C. Cora Du Bois: anthropologist, diplomat, agent. Nebraska, 2015. 423p bibl index afp ISBN 9780803262959, $39.50.

Cora Du Bois (1903–1991) grew up in New Jersey but spent periods of her youth with family in France, Switzerland, and Germany.  After studying anthropology at Columbia and Berkeley, she did field research in the 1930s on the Indonesian island of Alor.  Her classic book, The People of Alor (1944), was a pioneering study of the interaction of culture, personality, and psychology.  When the US entered WW II, Du Bois worked in intelligence as a Southeast Asian specialist.  Afterward, she entered the State Department.  Finally, in 1954, she became Harvard's first woman full professor.  She managed at the same time to carry on her private life as a lesbian.  From childhood onward, Du Bois kept copious journals and diaries.  These diaries, along with correspondence and professional papers archived at Harvard and the University of Chicago, are unusually rich resources.  Seymour (emer., anthropology, Pitzer College) uses them fully, along with interviews with friends, colleagues, family, and Du Bois herself before her death.  Seymour is a fine biographer and writer who makes the most of extraordinary sources to bring this intrepid woman to life in a readable book that belongs in all libraries.

--R. Berleant-Schiller, emerita, University of Connecticut

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.