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Biographical entry Kaberry, Phyllis (1910 - 1977)

17 September 1910
San Francisco, California, United States of America
31 October 1977
Camden, United Kingdom


Phyllis Kaberry was an anthropologist whose major work in Australia, conducted from 1934 in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, was the first to study the kinship, religion, and economic and social organisation of Aboriginal women. She published a series of papers in 1938 which constitute one of the earliest detailed studies of daily camp activities and food preparation. Her PhD, later published as Aboriginal women, sacred and profane (1939), was notable in presenting Aboriginal women as integral to Aboriginal culture, in contrast to the usual perception of the time. Later work in the Sepik district of New Guinea was cut short by the hostilities of war. Between 1945 and 1963 she spent extended periods in West Africa, investigating the causes of malnutrition and working to remove straying cattle that destroyed the women's farms. Kaberry played a central role in the affairs of the Royal Anthropological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, serving as Vice-President from 1965 to 1968.



Life event - Moved to New Zealand with her family
Life event - Moved to Australia with her family
Education - BA, University of Sydney
Education - MA, University of Sydney
Education - PhD, London School of Economics
1941 - 1943
Career position - Sterling and Carnegie Fellowships, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.A.
1943 - 1944
Career position - Research Associate, Royal Institute of International Affairs
1950 - 1977
Career position - Reader in Anthropology, University College, London
1951 - 1963
Career position - Member of Council, Royal Anthropological Society of Great Britain and Ireland
Award - Rivers Medal, Royal Anthropological Society of Great Britain and Ireland
Award - Wellcome Medal (jointly), Royal Anthropological Society of Great Britain and Ireland
1965 - 1968
Career position - Vice-President, Royal Anthropological Society of Great Britain and Ireland
Life event - Retired

Published resources


  • Kaberry, P. M., Aboriginal women sacred and profane (London: George Routledge, 1939), 294 pp. Details
  • Toussaint, Sandy, Phyllis Kaberry and me: anthropology, history and Aboriginal Australia (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1999), 128 pp. Details

Book Sections

  • Cheater, Christine, 'Kaberry, Phyllis Mary (1910-1977), Anthropologist' in Australian Dictionary of Biography, John Ritchie, ed., vol. 14 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1996), p. 596. Details
  • Toussaint, Sandy, 'Phyllis Mary Kaberry, 1910-1977' in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). Details

Edited Books

  • Ardener, Shirley ed., Persons and powers of women in diverse cultures: essays in commemoration of Audrey I. Richards, Phyllis Kaberry, and Barbara E. Ward (New York: Berg, 1992), 219 pp. Details

Journal Articles

  • Cheater, Christine, '"She was the first one " : Phyllis Mary Kaberry, a founding mother of feminist anthropology', Lilith: a feminist history journal, 14 (2005), 65-7. Details
  • Williams, Nancy M., '"She was one of the first...": Phyllis Kaberry in the East Kimberley', Aboriginal History, 12 (1988), 85-102. Details


See also

  • Bowdler, Sandra and Clune, Genevieve, 'That shadowy band: the role of women in the development of Australian archaeology', Australian Archaeology, 50 (2000), 276-35. Details

Helen Cohn