Acceptance of the Margaret Mead Award, 1982 (9 pages)


Material Information

Acceptance of the Margaret Mead Award, 1982 (9 pages)
Series Title:
Elmendorf Papers Series 4: General Papers
Physical Description:
Mixed Material
Elmendorf, Mary L. (Mary Lindsay)
Publication Date:

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
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All rights reserved by the submitter.
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Full Text

Acceptance of the



Mary Lindsay Elmendorf

from the

American Anthropological Association
and the
Society for Applied Anthropology

Lexington, Kentucky
March 12, 1982

I am happy, truly happy, to receive this award and

to know that you all feel that my work has helped make

anthropological data and principles meaningful to a broader

concerned public.

I am also honored, but I feel strongly that this

honor should be shared with my supportive family, especially

my late husband, John Elmendorf, who during our 43 years of

marriage, tolerated my rebelliousness and shared my hopes

and dreams and the nuturing of our two children, Lindsay

and Susie, who have encouraged me to continue my active


I am also amused to be receiving the Margaret Mead

award for a younger scholar, a month before my 65th birthday!

There are two primary reasons for this. First, because

of Margaret Mead who gave me a needed extra incentive to go

back in my fifties and finish my Ph.D by her insistence on

the special contributions that can be made by post-

menopausal women. As anthropologists we are all aware of

the non-polluting characteristics of older women in

traditional societies but are less aware of their potential

in our society.

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The second reason was to complete unfinished business.

Like many young women, wives especially, my graduate

studies were interrupted. Growing up, as I did, in the

rural south during the depression even completing my under-

graduate studies at Chapel Hill was difficult. When my

father sadly told me he could'nt afford to send me back for

my senior year, he said he could only educate one of us

children, and it would have to be my younger brother,

because he felt I'd get married and didn't need the educa-

tion as much, I was shocked. I can still remember saying,

"I must go back. I won't promise not to get married, but

I will promise to use my education." My consciousness was

raised. And back at Chapel Hill, where as one of 200 women

admitted only if we had a B or better average in a subject

area not offered in the women's college, among 2,000 men,

I suddenly realized we were living in a segregated, but not

equal world. We complained and I suddenly found myself on

the student executive board.

And so I finished the University at 20 with a B.A.

in Psychology and graduate credits in Public Administration,

and Social Work. After nearly a decade of hard work in

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various agencies, public and private, in the rural south,

the slums of New England and two years as director of

the AFSC refugee program in Europe as a quaker volunteer

during and after World War II, I returned to Chapel Hill

to re-enter graduate school in the new department of

Anthropology. After 2 years and 2 babies we went to

Mexico for 18 months and stayed 11 years. But the years

were full of learning, and as Chief of the Mexican CARE

Mission, the first woman director, I worked closely with

Aquirre Beltran and Villa Rojas, and others at the National

Indian Institute and the Ministries of Health, Education

and Agriculture in their innovative programs. It was

in Mexico in the 50's that I became acutely aware of the

power of women as agents of change as I worked with Mexican

professional women, and saw the various pilot programs where

young women trained as promotores, mejoradores, etc. were

able to successfully reach villagers both the women and

the men. And it was after this that I decided that more

needed to be known about this phenonomena.

After coming back to the states in the early 60's

I prepared a research proposal on the "Role of Women as

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Agents of Change" -- Women in Development as we say now --

but the time was not right. Thanks to encouragement from

my Mexican colleagues, Aguirre Beltran, Villa Rojas, Staven

Hagen and others, I continued my interest in Mexican

women. George Foster, who will receive the Malinowski

award tonight, urged me to go ahead with my research and

introduced me to Beverely Chinas who was studying Tehunantepec

women. And finally, I reentered graduate school and com-

pleted my degree in 1972 under Dorothy Lee, and Alfonso

Villa Rojas, writing on Maya women and change. This work,

which was published in Spanish and English within two

years, led to various research and consultant assignments

for the Mexican government, the World Bank, USAID and other

agencies analyzing the socio-cultural aspects of development

projects, with emphasis on the roles of women and community

participation in meeting basic needs. For me these basic

needs. have fallen into three categories -- Water, Energy,

and Population. In all of these issues I have worked closely

with engineers, planners, demographers, and others always

urging better communication with village people in order to

understand their perceived needs and solve mutual problems.

- 5.-

In population my concern has been in conception and

contraception with fertility control as a woman's right,

in contraceptive technologies as considered appropriate

and presented in appropriate -- meaningful ways to local

groups. Not just access, but understanding. For example

sin palabras -- without words, pamphlets with PIACT

(Piata de Mexico), using drawings and photographs.

In energy my interest in the fuelwood crisis -- a

far greater problem than the oil crisis -- was aroused in

1975 when my first task at the World Bank was to review

Eckholm's classic book Losing Ground. I suggested places

throughout where women, as primary users and often

gatherers of wood needed to be inserted in major roles.

And they were. Then in 1979 was asked to prepared a dis-

cussion paper on household energy for the National Academy

of Sciences I-nternational Workshop on Energy Survey Metho-

dologies for Developing countries, which appeared as "Human

Dimensions of Energy Needs and Resources". And from that

into social forestry and a draft of a.think piece on

"Forestry, Fuel Funds, Food and Females" just before a field

assignment to Thailand to assist in designing a national

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energy survey with engineers and local social scientists.

Household energy is a continuing interest, and working with

my new husband, John Landgraf, we are examining possibilities

of community woodlots in Thailand as a part of their rural

renewable energy program.

In water, which I always continue with sanitation,

I have spent about half my time since 1977 when I attended

the UN conference on Water at Mar del Plata where I spoke

out on the need for community participation -- and

particularly by women -- in improving domestic water. First

there was an assignment at the World Bank helping design a

research program on acceptance and diffusion of appropriate

technologies for excreta disposal. I was able to get approval

for case studies by social scientists of successes and

failures of intervention in sanitation in Latin America.

The analysis of these studies -- "the Sociocultural Aspects

of Excreta-Disposal" is being reprinted. I'm accused by

some of voyeurism, and I'm called the four letter word lady"

by others, but awareness of the importance of taboos and

habits in acceptance of changes in water use and excreta

disposal is growing. And this understanding has led to the

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importance of women as primary users and socializers.

Another think piece was "Women, Water and Waste" --

alliteration helps call attention to interrelatedness of

things. People laugh but they remember. "Women, Water and

Waste" was presented first to a small AID group, then pre-

sented at a Forum seminar at the Mid Decade Conference of

Women in Copenhagen, then revised for presentation to various

engineering groups including the 100th annual meeting of

the American Waterworks Association, 3000 engineers strong,

as "Women and the Decade",. By 1990 there is hope that the

more than a billion people in rural areas and urban slumes

presently without safe drinking water and even rudimentary

sanitation will have at least minimum facilities. The World

Bank estimates that 100 to 300 billion U.S. dollars is

needed. Now John Kalbermatten, the World Bank adviser on

Water and Sanitation is urging that women be involved in

planning and designing so that the sociocultural aspects

will be under stood and improvements will be used and

maintained. And AID is circulating a working paper or "The

Roles of Women as Participants in and Beneficiaries of

Improvements in Water Supply and Sanitation," for use in

overseas programs. In fact it is being translated into

French and Spanish for field use.

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Just last week a call came from WHO in Geneva to

say that these papers -- and discussion of them have

helped get women's roles, for the first time as an agenda

item for the upcoming annual meeting of the interagency

consortium composed of UNDP, WHO, UNICEF, FAO and the

World Bank, where planning for allocations of the billions

of dollars for water Supply and sanitation will be dis-

cussed. My priority next week is to prepare an issues

paper for this meeting. And so it goes.

But for me even more important is the fact that

more and more agencies are asking for anthropological

inputs -- and for women's perspectives. More doors are

opening for anthropologists as planners, politicians; even

economists are becoming more aware of the cultural dimen-

sions of development. Reports such as the Global 2000.

Report tell us and the newspapers daily con firm we

must seek new ways of solving the increasing poverty and

violence. As anthropologists we have many things to offer

but we must be able to communicate our micro-level studies -

our views from the villages -- to a macrolevel or global

perspective. We must learn the languages of the other

disciplines, translate our findings, and at the same

time listen carefully to the villagers if we are to be

effective as cultural brokers.