To the Editor:
Caitlin Zaloom’s recent essay, “The Fight Over a Berkeley Library is a Fight for the Future of Higher Ed” (The Chronicle Review, May 4), contains a number of errors and omissions that need to be addressed. First, Zaloom says that “Columbia University tried valiantly to push anthropology out; it always preferred engineering.” Absolutely not. It preferred the classical higher education in humanities and sciences. It did not want to support anthropology because under the leadership of the middle-class Jew Franz Boas (in a blatantly anti-Semitic America), anthropology directly challenged, with scientific data, the dominant master-race program (see Jonathan Spiro, Defending the Master Race).
Next, “Ishi” lived in the museum because he wanted to, because that was where artifacts of his people and their neighbors were kept. He was never in captivity. When he turned himself in near his wilderness hideout, the small town had to lodge him in its little jail until someone would volunteer to help him because there was no other place to temporarily lodge a ragged man who spoke no English. He went voluntarily with Kroeber and was treated as a friend. He wanted very much to demonstrate his crafts and have his knowledge recorded so that it would not die with him. He was a middle-aged man bereft of all his kin and community, desperate to survive, grateful and happy to be given a comfortable, safe place to live amongst familiar things.
In addition, why does Zaloom not mention that the library has a name, the names of two anthropologists, George Foster and Mary LeCron Foster? They, too, will be erased when the library is no more. I won’t describe George Foster, who was chair of the anthropology department for years, but Mary Foster, called Mickie, was a feminist and above all, a passionate pacifist. She labored for decades to establish a Peace Studies Center, to make peace studies a subfield of anthropology, to support graduate students who wanted to research peace topics, to organize peace research sessions at national and international anthropology meetings. She joined AAAS and got herself on its committee to study nuclear weapons only to be ignored by the men on the committee who talked about weapons, not peace.
And why, for all these months when people clamored to remove Kroeber’s name and now the Fosters’ names, does no one apparently notice that the Anthropology Museum bears the name of the wife of William Randolph Hearst, mother of his son, who supported these men building the tabloid newspaper empire that made them all exceedingly rich? Mrs. Hearst did say she supported votes for women, but she was no Alice Paul or Margaret Sanger or actually a activist.
Alice B. Kehoe
Professor Emeritus of Anthropology