Writers - 3

Isabel Truesdell Kelly (1906-1983) was a social anthropologist and archeologist who specialized in Mexican cultures. She was born in Santa Cruz, California, and developed a scholarly interest in anthropology while an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB). Kelly entered UCB at sixteen and earned a BA (1926), MA (1927), and PhD (1932) in anthropology. Students received no real practice in the field; however, in 1929 she ventured out into the field alongside her professor Alfred L. Kroeber and other academics to Pecos near Santa Fe, which was a turning point in her development as a scholar. She conducted fieldwork in 1931-1932 with the Coast Miwok.

From 1932-1934, she did ethnographic research with the Southern Paiute Indians. She then went to Mexico as a research associate working with geographer Carl O. Sauer and Kroeber in 1935 working in Culiacan, Sinaloa. Kelly was an indefatigable field worker, often in rigorous conditions considered challenging for many. With minimal funding from UCB’s Anthropology Department, Kelly returned to Mexico for archeological studies in 1939. She became a Mexican resident in 1940, settling in Tepepan, outside Mexico City. In 1946, Kelly became Ethnologist-in-Charge of the Smithsonian’s Institute of Social Anthropology (ISA) at the Mexico City office. Kelly taught and conducted research among the Totonac people at El Tajin in Veracruz. She also studied health care in Mexico and El Salvador.

From 1952-1960, Kelly worked with the Institute of Inter-American Affairs (IIAA), later called the Agency for International Development. She worked in Mexico, Bolivia, Puerto Rico, El Salvador and Pakistan. Sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation and others, she returned to research in Mexico in 1960. Isabel Kelly endured many seasons of difficult fieldwork and has been considered the “mother of Western Mexican archaeology.”

Isabel Truesdell Kelly (1906-1983)

Isabel T. Kelly ethnographic archive

Isabel T. Kelly was a social anthropologist and archeologist who specialized in Mexican cultures. The Kelly collection consists of field note sheets, folders of data, manuscripts, maps, photographs, negatives, slides, film, charts, tables, and secondary source copies. These materials come from research trips in the United States to study Coast Miwok and Southern Paiute tribes, and in Mexico, Bolivia, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, and Pakistan.

DeGolyer Library, Archives of Women of the Southwest, MSS 0122, MSS 0122X