the many firsts of a hall of famer
Adapted essay by Emily Siddiqui, Student Editor
As a writer, anthropologist, scholar, and historian, Alice Lee Marriott did much to deserve her title as the first woman inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 1973.
She was born in Wilmette, Illinois in 1910. Her family moved to Oklahoma City in 1917, where many of her passions took root. Marriott’s love for people and words began at a young age. She started reading when she was just two years old and later wrote plays for her siblings to act out. At Oklahoma City’s Central High School, she was awarded her first literary prize for one of her stories.
After malaria compromised her health, Marriott quit her job at the Muskogee Public Library to enroll at the University of Oklahoma to learn more about American Indians. There, she became the first woman to earn a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. She worked on several historical sites, including the Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma.
As a specialist in ethnology—the study of living cultures—she wrote at least 20 books and dozens of major articles on history, folklore, biography, and personal reminiscences. She wrote for young adults and children alike. Scholars rank her writing among the best of its kind, particularly the work on the cultures of American Indians.
After World War II, she lived in Nambe, New Mexico, where she worked on Maria, The Potter of San Ildefonso, her most famous book. Other works include The Ten Grandmothers, the story of the Kiowa, Greener Fields, and Hell on Horses and Women. She and Carol K. Rachlin co-authored American Indian Mythology, among other books.
In addition to her outstanding accomplishments in writing, Marriott’s endeavors in the years to come were numerous. Her work included working for the U.S. Department of the Interior as an Indian Arts and Crafts specialist (1936-1942) and for the American Red Cross as a field representative during World War II.
Marriott was appointed as associate professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma from 1964 to 1966; in 1968 she became an artist in residence at Central State College, known today as the University of Central Oklahoma. Marriott’s honors include Oklahoma Writer of the Year in 1957. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1958 and was posthumously inducted into the Oklahoma Historians Hall of Fame in 2004.
Nearly 19 years after being the first woman inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, Marriott died on March 18, 1992. However, her legacy continues because of the time she spent in teaching her skills to younger writers.
This essay was adapted from the 1969 Southwest Writers Series publication, “Alice Marriott,” by Turner S. Kobler of Texas Woman’s University.