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NYTimes.com Article: Lorna Marshall, Early Scholar on African Bushmen, Dies at 103

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  • ann.popplestone@tri-c.cc.oh.us
    This article from NYTimes.com has been sent to you by ann.popplestone@tri-c.cc.oh.us. Lorna Marshall, Early Scholar on African Bushmen, Dies at 103 July 30,
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2002
      This article from NYTimes.com
      has been sent to you by ann.popplestone@....

      Lorna Marshall, Early Scholar on African Bushmen, Dies at 103

      July 30, 2002

      Lorna J. Marshall, a college English instructor turned
      homemaker who in her 50's began a new life as an
      anthropologist studying the Bushmen of Africa, died on July
      8 at her home in Peterborough, N.H. She was 103.

      She had lived with her daughter, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas,
      since 1996, Ms. Thomas said. She previously lived in the
      same house in Cambridge, Mass., since the late 1920's.

      Mrs. Marshall's anthropological career began when her
      husband, Laurence K. Marshall, a founder and president of
      the Raytheon Corporation, retired in 1950 with the thought
      that it was time to get reacquainted with his family.

      "Where is the remotest place we can go and be a family
      again?" Mr. Marshall asked, said Irven DeVore, the More
      research professor of anthropology at Harvard.

      The Kalahari Desert was the answer he found. He decided he
      would take his family to live among the legendary Bushmen.

      "They became a sort of Swiss Family Robinson of the
      Kalahari," Dr. DeVore said.

      The family's accomplishments made it more than that. Mr.
      Marshall helped the Bushmen start a fine-wool industry. The
      Marshalls' son, John, began his career as a leading maker
      of ethnographic documentary films. Ms. Thomas, who would go
      on to write best sellers like "The Hidden Life of Dogs,"
      wrote a well-received book on the Bushmen, "The Harmless
      People" (Knopf, 1958).

      Meanwhile, Mrs. Marshall began the painstaking process of
      documenting the culture and behavior of the Bushmen,
      sometimes called !Kung. (The "!" represents a clicking
      sound in their language). She was the first of dozens of
      scholars who have made the Bushmen one of the world's most
      studied populations of traditional hunter-gatherers.

      "To say she started it is not a mistake," Dr. DeVore said.
      "By standards of ethnography, she did as well or better
      than any monograph I know, and she was there early."

      Over the next two decades, the Marshall family made eight
      trips to the Kalahari, a desert the size of Spain in what
      is now Namibia, Botswana and the Republic of South Africa,
      staying for as long as a year and a half at a time. Then
      the family would return to Cambridge, where Mrs. Marshall
      would employ the best graduate students to organize her
      voluminous notes, which resulted in two books and many

      An honor she particularly valued was having a !Kung baby
      girl named after her. The child was called Norna, because
      the Bushmen, for all their ability to make unusual vocal
      sounds, cannot pronounce the letter L.

      Lorna Jean McLean was born in Morenci, a mining town in the
      Arizona Territory, on Sept. 14, 1898. Her father, Gordon
      McLean, a mining engineer, died when she was 7. Her mother,
      the former Bessie Holmes, remarried and moved with her
      daughter to Riverside, Calif., and then Los Angeles.

      Miss McLean graduated from the University of California at
      Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in English. She then gave
      up the beginning of a career in ballet to travel around the
      world with her mother, who had been widowed again. They
      traveled throughout the Middle East and Asia. In China,
      they met an instructor at Mount Holyoke College who offered
      Miss McLean a job teaching English.

      She accepted, but soon met Mr. Marshall in Nova Scotia,
      where both had relatives. They married and moved to

      At the Cambridge Community Center, she organized women to
      salvage tungsten wire from radio tubes that Raytheon could
      re-use in making electronic devices. The salvage operation
      employed black and white women, unusual at the time, and
      permitted women to work flexible hours, which was also

      Mr. Marshall said he wanted to do something with his family
      when he retired, and its members were interested in
      anthropology. So he asked his wife to take some courses at
      Harvard, which she did from time to time among trips to

      The family was at first apprehensive about tales of poison
      darts and trance dances, but found the Bushmen polite and
      kind. The Marshall family lived in tents, even as
      temperatures ranged from freezing to 125 degrees.

      Mrs. Marshall published her first book, "!Kung of Nyae
      Nyae," in 1975 (Harvard University Press), and her second,
      "Nyae Nyae !Kung Belief and Rites," three years ago
      (Peabody Museum Press).

      She is survived by her daughter, her son, who lives in
      Belmont, Mass., three grandchildren and three

      She is remembered by others. A year or so after her 100th
      birthday party, the child of a Bushman she had known as a
      child came to visit her.


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