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Levine Honored by American Anthropological Association

As an archaeologist, Franklin & Marshall Associate Professor of Anthropology Mary Ann Levine enjoys revealing the stories hidden beneath the soil. But it is her work uncovering history above ground that has earned her national recognition.

Levine is the 2012 recipient of the American Anthropological Association's (AAA) Committee on Gender Equity in Anthropology (CoGEA) Award, which she will receive at the annual AAA conference in San Francisco in November. The association awards the honor each year to an anthropologist who has advanced the status of women in the field through research, uncovering practices in anthropology that are potentially discriminatory toward women, and raising awareness of women's contributions to anthropology.

The professor, whose research interests focus on Native American women and the history of women in archaeology, joined F&M's Department of Anthropology in 1998. She has published several widely cited articles on the history of women in archaeology from the late 19th century to the 1960s and served on two national committees dedicated to assessing the status of women in the contemporary practice of anthropology.

"This award is both gratifying and humbling," Levine said. "I've tried to dedicate myself to a variety of different pursuits in women's and gender studies related to archaeology, and it's great to know that my work has made an impact on our field. It's humbling to look through the list of past winners and see leaders in our field such as Liz Brumfiel, Meg Conkey and Louise Lamphere."

  • Mary Ann Levine
  • Mary Ann Levine, associate professor of anthropology at F&M, was honored by the American Anthropological Association for advancing the status of women in her field. Above, Levine conducts research on the site of Madame Montour's village in central Pennsylvania in 2008. (Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Levine)

Brumfiel, Conkey and Lamphere received the CoGEA award for work ranging from social theory to archaeology to gender and women's status, and now Levine adds her own influence through her research. Levine has made significant contributions to global anthropological conversations on gender, said Professor Misty Bastian, chair of anthropology at F&M.

"The CoGEA award is given only to those who have made a real and significant impact on anthropology," Bastian said. "Mary Ann's tireless efforts to bring true gender equity to academic archaeology are being felt every day by the young female and male archaeologists with whom she works, trains and touches with her writing on this subject."

Levine's interest in uncovering the history of women in archaeology began during her undergraduate program at McGill University in Montreal, when one of her professors mentioned an archaeological excavation in Africa conducted by an all-female team. "It was only mentioned in passing during a lecture," Levine said. "I asked myself, 'Has the history of women in our field been written?'"

As a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Levine dug into the history of women in her field by tracing the first generation of female archaeologists. She described the climate for women in the field as "chilly," especially in the early and mid-20th century.

"Archaeology was regarded by many people as a masculine pursuit, and women were generally not welcome," Levine said. "There was a mischaracterization that women, especially those with families, were poorly suited to labor in excavations. I [chronicled] the pathbreakers and pioneers who helped the climate toward women warm."

The professor's recent work has focused on two excavation projects in Pennsylvania—both of which tell the story of a woman in history, and both involving the work of F&M students. The professor began working in 2002 with students to excavate an urban plot in downtown Lancaster once owned and occupied by Thaddeus Stevens, one of the 19th century's best-known abolitionists, and Lydia Hamilton Smith, a businesswoman who was Stevens' longtime housekeeper. She then embarked on a four-year project with students to uncover the story of Madame Montour, an interpreter and diplomat in New France who lived in central Pennsylvania during the 18th century.

The project was the perfect combination of her interests in Native American life and women, Levine said.

"Finding Madame Montour's village (called Otstonwakin, in Lycoming County) was an ideal scholarly project for me and my students," Levine said. "It allowed us to focus on Native Americans at a tumultuous time in history and learn about Madame Montour, who was so influential as a culture broker, frontier diplomat and translator."

Projects like these have made Levine influential in her own right and earned her the recognition of her peers.

Read more about Levine's career and research on Madame Montour in a previous story in Franklin & Marshall Magazine.