Elsie Clews Parsons: Inventing Modern Life

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Elsie Clews Parsons was a pioneering feminist, eminent anthropologist and ardent social critic; she challenged Americans to develop flexible and dynamic gender, family and social arrangements that would fit the 20th century. From 1912, she incorporated ethnographic data on upper-class New York into a series of books and articles, she brought to anthropology a desire to educate the public to accept and welcome sexual and social diversity. This biography examines the powerful connections linking Parsons' intellectual commitments to her life experience. Desley Deacon uses correspondence and memoirs to reconstruct Parsons' unconventional marriage, her intimate friendships, her ties to a burgeoning avant-garde, her bitter attempts to escape the stifling conventions of New York's social elite - in short all of her efforts to overcome gender biases in both academia and society.