Louise Lamphere, Faculty


An assistant professor of Anthropology and the only woman in her department when she was hired in 1968, Louise Lamphere was denied tenure in 1974. The Anthropology Department claimed that her scholarship was theoretically weak. Lamphere claimed she was the victim of sex discrimination and argued that the small number of women on the Brown faculty was evidence of a larger pattern of discrimination. After unsuccessfully pursuing an internal appeals process, on May 10, 1975 Lamphere filed a lawsuit in United States District Court.

Under the leadership of a new President, Howard Swearer, the University settled the case before trial, entering in September 1977 into an historic consent decree designed “to achieve on behalf of women full representativeness with respect to faculty employment at Brown.” Brown agreed to set up an Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee charged with overseeing the processes departments used to hire, promote, and tenure faculty in order to ensure fairness; evaluating searches for inclusivity; and monitoring progress toward full representation of women on the faculty. The Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee was in existence from 1978 to 1992 when by mutual consent the consent decree was vacated.

Conducted in 2014 as part of the Pembroke Center’s Louise Lamphere vs. Brown University exhibit for Brown’s 250th anniversary, this interview with Louise Lamphere discusses her personal and educational background, her interest in Brown, and her memories about being denied tenure. Lamphere details the processes she went through to bring her case to court, negotiating the consent decree, and accepting her tenured position at Brown. Lamphere goes on to explain her motives for donating one million dollars to the anthropology department in 2008, and the long term effects of her case.


Recorded on May 30, 2014 in Washington, DC
Interviewed by Amy Goldstein

Suggested Chicago style citation: Lamphere, Louise. Interview. By Amy Goldstein. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. May 30, 2014.


In 1975, after being denied tenure at Brown University and unsuccessfully pursuing an appeals process, Louise Lamphere sued the college in a landmark class-action case that charged Brown with sex discrimination. Following settlement, Lamphere would earn tenure at Brown before accepting another tenured position in New Mexico. Today Lamphere is a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Emerita at the University of New Mexico and Past President of the American Anthropological Association. During 2001-2002, she was a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation in New York City and was a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Princeton University in Fall 2007.

Lamphere’s first major publication was Woman, Culture and Society co-edited with Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo (1974). Her book on Navajo family life, To Run After Them: The Social and Cultural Bases of Cooperation in a Navajo Community, was published in 1977. She has studied issues of women and work for 25 years, beginning with her study of women workers in Rhode Island industry, From Working Daughters to Working Mothers (1977). She also coauthored a study of working women in Albuquerque entitled, Sunbelt Working Mothers: Reconciling Family and Factory (1993), with Patricia Zavella, Felipe Gonzales, and Peter Evans. Lamphere also co-edited a collection of articles with Helena Ragone’ and Patricia Zavella entitled, “Situated Lives: Gender and Culture in Everyday Life” (1997).