Travels with Frances Densmore


Travels with Frances Densmore

Her Life, Work, and Legacy in Native American Studies

Edited by Joan M. Jensen and Michelle Wick Patterson

464 pages
40 b-w photographs


June 2015


$75.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2015


$75.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2015


$75.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Over the first half of the twentieth century, scientist and scholar Frances Densmore (1867–1957) visited thirty-five Native American tribes, recorded more than twenty-five hundred songs, amassed hundreds of artifacts and Native-crafted objects, and transcribed information about Native cultures. Her visits to indigenous groups included meetings with the Ojibwes, Lakotas, Dakotas, Northern Utes, Ho-chunks, Seminoles, and Makahs. A “New Woman” and a self-trained anthropologist, she not only influenced government attitudes toward indigenous cultures but also helped mold the field of anthropology. 
Densmore remains an intriguing historical figure. Although researchers use her vast collections at the Smithsonian and Minnesota Historical Society, as well as her many publications, some scholars critique her methods of “salvage anthropology” and concepts of the “vanishing” Native American. Travels with Frances Densmore is the first detailed study of her life and work. Through narrative descriptions of her life paired with critical essays about her work, this book is an essential guide for understanding how Densmore formed her collections and the lasting importance they have had for researchers in a variety of fields.

Author Bio

Joan M. Jensen is a professor emerita of history at New Mexico State University. She is the author of several books, including Calling This Place Home: Women on the Wisconsin Frontier, 1850–1925. Michelle Wick Patterson is an associate professor of history at Mount St. Mary’s University. She is the author of Natalie Curtis Burlin: A Life in Native and African American Music (Nebraska, 2010).


"Looking at and listening to Densmore's research again is a new starting point for how we understand anthropology, ethnography, indigenous societies, and the gender and other dimensions of our own society."—Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database

By providing this rich account of Densmore's life, times, and thought, the volume contributes more than just a biography of a single scholar. A thoughtful meditation on how intertwined lives are made, remembered, and forgotten, it deserves to be read by anyone interested in the history of anthropology or museum studies."—Alex Golub, Museum Anthropology Review

“Frances Densmore’s archive of Native American music, photographs, and material culture is indispensable to scholars. Yet she remains an elusive figure. Travels with Frances Densmore takes us into her world. It is a moving, engrossing record of a woman’s self-professionalization and devotion to science at the turn of the twentieth century.”—Sally Cole, professor of anthropology at Concordia University and author of Ruth Landes: A Life in Anthropology

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations    
Introduction: Traveling with Frances Densmore    
Joan M. Jensen and Michelle Wick Patterson
Part 1. Frances Densmore’s Life and Work
1. She Always Said, “I Heard an Indian Drum”    
Michelle Wick Patterson
2. Becoming Two White Buffalo Woman    
Michelle Wick Patterson
3. By Train, by Boat, by Model T    
Joan M. Jensen
4. Getting the Depression Blues    
Joan M. Jensen
5. Cut, Paste, Delete, Preserve    
Michelle Wick Patterson
6. Gone but Not Quite Forgotten    
Joan M. Jensen
Part 2. Conversations
7. Miss Densmore Meets the Ojibwes: Frances Densmore’s Ethnomusicology Studies among the Grand Portage Ojibwes in 1905    
Nancy L. Woolworth
8. Songs of Healing: Music Therapy of Native America, a Medical Ethnomusicology Study    
Stephanie Thorne
9. Familiar Faces: Densmore’s Minnesota Photographs    
Bruce White
10. Collection with a Mission: Frances Densmore’s Chippewa Artifacts    
Carolyn Gilman
11. An Archival Dilemma: The Densmore Cylinder Recording Speeds    
Judith Gray
12. Frances Densmore’s Chippewa Music    
Thomas J. Vennum Jr.
Conclusion: A Picture Is Worth Deconstructing    
Joan M. Jensen and Michelle Wick Patterson
Note on Sources: How to Continue Traveling with Densmore    

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