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Finding Aid to the Theodora Kroeber Papers, 1881-1983 (bulk 1960-1979)
BANC MSS 69/145 c  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Information
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Theodora Kroeber papers
    Date (inclusive): 1881-1983
    Date (bulk): 1960-1979
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 69/145 c
    Creator: Kroeber, Theodora
    Extent: Number of containers: 16 boxes, 1 oversize folder. Linear feet: 6.45
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: Contains correspondence, both personal and professional, and materials related to the publication of her writings. Also includes biographical materials and a small amount of Kracaw family papers.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
    Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite and advance notice may be required for use. For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is NOT open for research. Anyone desiring to consult the papers must first obtain written permission from Karl Kroeber, representing the Kroeber family. This restriction, unless previously abrogated or modified, will terminate on December 31, 2010, at which time the papers will be free of all restrictions of access.

    Publication Rights

    Materials in this collection may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html .

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Theodora Kroeber Papers, BANC MSS 69/145 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Alternate Forms Available

    Copy of Saxton Pope correspondence (Box 3, 1 folder); Research materials (Box 10, Folders 1-11, 14, 21-22); Correspondence: Fan Mail 1961-1964 (Box 11, folders 1-5) : also available on microfilm with call number BANC FILM 2811

    Related Collections

    A. L. Kroeber Papers, BANC FILM 2049
    Kroeber Family Papers, BANC MSS 82/132c
    Kroeber Family Pictorial Works, BANC PIC 1970.051--PIC, BANC PIC 1978.128--PIC, BANC PIC 1980.013-.015-PIC
    Timeless Woman: Writer and Interpreter of the California Indian World, oral history transcript, BANC MSS 83/27 c.

    Separated Material

    Photographs have been transferred to Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog
    Brower, David Ross, 1912-2000--Correspondence
    Brown, Jerry, 1938- --Correspondence
    Cody, Fred, 1916-1983--Correspondence
    Heizer, Robert Fleming, 1915- --Correspondence
    Ishi, d. 1916
    Kracaw family--Archives
    Kroeber, A. L. (Alfred Louis), 1876-1960
    Kroeber, Theodora--Archives
    Le Guin, Ursula K., 1929- --Correspondence
    Pope, Saxton T. (Saxton Temple), 1875-1926
    Robbins, Ruth--Correspondence
    Singer, Milton B.--Correspondence
    Valory, Dale--Correspondence
    Waterman, T. T. (Thomas Talbot), b. 1885
    Authors, American--California--20th century
    Publishers and publishing--History--20th century

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Theodora Kroeber Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by Theodora Kroeber beginning in June 1969. Additions were made in February and April 1972. The remainder of her papers were donated after her death in 1979, by her third husband, John Quinn, and her daughter, Ursula K. Le Guin, from 1979 to 1997.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Lori Hines.

    Biographical Information

    Theodora Kroeber was born Theodora Covel Kracaw in Denver, Colorado on March 24, 1897. She attended the University of California, Berkeley, and received two degrees in psychology, a B.A. in 1919, followed by an M.A. in 1920.
    In July 1921, she married Clifton Spencer Brown in Berkeley. The birth of two children, Theodore and Clifton B., soon followed. Clifton S. Brown died in October, 1923. At the encouragement of her mother-in law, Theodora Kroeber went back to U.C. Berkeley to pursue graduate work in anthropology. It was at this time she met and studied under Alfred Louis Kroeber. In March, 1926, they were married, and she once again settled down to family life, and gave birth to two more children, Karl and Ursula.
    This was by no means the end to her intellectual life. She was still immersed in the academic community of Berkeley, as she entertained A. L. Kroeber's colleagues and students and Native Americans who came to their home. She accompanied Alfred on his field trips to Peru (1928-1929 and 1942), and to the Yurok and Mohave country (1930-1958).
    After her children had grown, she used the information she had gathered on her travels and from her associations with A. L. Kroeber's colleagues to write The Inland Whale . Published in 1959, it was an academic success. Although she had written a few articles previously, this was the true beginning of her writing career--at the age of 62. She followed two years later with the publication of Ishi in Two Worlds in 1961. The sources she drew from were Ishi's "white men and women friends," one of whom was her husband, A. L. Kroeber. Unfortunately, he was not able to see this project completed. He died in 1960, a year before the book was published. Soon after its publication, Ishi in Two Worlds became a best seller. Theodora Kroeber was brought to the public's attention and forced into the limelight. Even though she had never met the man, she was now the authority on this new American hero. Letters, fan mail and requests for appearances came pouring in from people who were touched by the story of Ishi.
    Her writing career flourished and she spent the next 20 years of her life writing and publishing stories, poetry, novels and articles, including "Poem for the Living," which was another popular success, and Alfred Kroeber, A Personal Configuration , a biography of her late husband. She also oversaw the publication of Yurok Myths and Karok Myths, two unpublished works by A. L. Kroeber.
    In December, 1970, she married once again, this time to a man 40 years her junior. John Harrison had served as one of her editors for Almost Ancestors.
    In 1977, Governor Jerry Brown asked her to fill an unexpired term on the University of California Board of Regents, and she accepted. Serving in this position was too exhausting for her, so less than a year after being appointed, she resigned. She died of cancer in her Berkeley home on July 4, 1979.

    Scope and Content

    The Theodora Kroeber Papers contain correspondence, both personal and professional, and materials related to the publication of her writings. Also includes biographical materials and a small amount of Kracaw family papers.
    As a faculty wife, she was immersed in the academic community, well known and respected in the civic community, and in contact with the leaders of each. Anthropologists, including Robert Fleming Heizer, Milton B. Singer and Dale Valory, scientist Robert J. Oppenheimer (a short note), politician Jerry Brown, environmentalist David Ross Brower, bookseller Fred Cody, and illustrator Ruth (Robbins) Schein are among her correspondents. Even though there is no correspondence among Theodora Kroeber, T. T. Waterman and Saxton T. Pope, these two anthropologists are referred to in the correspondence and in other parts of the collection. Another notable remembrance is in correspondence from James Rosenberg, who wrote of knowing A. L. Kroeber when they were young.
    Theodora Kroeber's charming character emerges in the notes and comments she pencilled on letters. Her wit is ever present, even as she off-handedly apologizes for being a poor typist. Many of her business letters are quite personal, because often her business dealings were with friends or people she knew well. This is clear in her correspondence with David Hales, one of her editors at the University of California Press. In a note, Theodora Kroeber stated that, "During a period of ten years or so he followed closely [Theodora Kroeber's] writing process and often came through with quaint suggestions which she found helpful." She was very open and gracious in her comments, as shown in her reaction to Patrick McCoy's letter about the student occupation of University of California, Berkeley campus in 1967, in her comments about the Board on Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) Proposal as a U.C. Regent, and even in a letter about unleashed dogs on campus.
    Her correspondence also offers a glimpse into the publishing world. It shows her frustrations with copyright and permissions when having her work translated into other languages, and the hold that publishers have over the will of the writer. Most important is the correspondence with her daughter, the novelist and poet Ursula K. Le Guin, when mother and daughter comment back and forth about each other's work.
    Theodora Kroeber is most famous for portraying the life of Ishi, the California Indian who stumbled into "civilization" in 1911. Although she never met him, she knew many of the people who knew him. Very few of her research materials are found here. But as a result of the book's publication, people who had first-hand accounts contacted her to tell their stories. These give additional clues regarding this man, who so many people wanted to know more about.
    In his foreward to A Woman Writes: A Posthumous Autobiography of Theodora Kroeber Quinn , John Quinn wrote that, "Theodora destroyed by fire what she was unwilling to share."
    This sums up the collection. These papers focus on a short span of the last 20 years of her life. There are many holes, and very little of her research materials and comparatively few of her manuscripts are found here. What remains is correspondence, the finished writings and the essence of Theodora Kroeber herself.