Kroeber, Theodora

Alternative names
Birth 1897-03-24
Death 1979-07-04

Biographical notes:

Theodora Kroeber was born Theodora Covel Kracaw, in Denver, Colo. on Mar. 24, 1897. Kroeber, a writer, authored the book "Ishi in Two Worlds" (1961). Kroeber's second husband was the anthropologist, A.L. Kroeber.

From the description of Theodora Kroeber papers, 1881-1983 (bulk 1960-1979). (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 84653243

Born Theodora Covel Kracaw in Denver Colo. in 1897. Married Clifton Spencer Brown in 1921, Alfred L. Kroeber in 1926, and John Quinn in 1970. Best known for her book Ishi in Two Worlds.

From the description of Theodora Kroeber photograph albums [graphic]. ca. 1900-ca. 1950s. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 80583930

Biographical Information

Theodora Kroeber was born Theodora Covel Kracaw in Denver, Colorado on March 24, 1897. She attended the University of California, Berkeley, and received two degrees in psychology, a B.A. in 1919, followed by an M.A. in 1920.

In July 1921, she married Clifton Spencer Brown in Berkeley. The birth of two children, Theodore and Clifton B., soon followed. Clifton S. Brown died in October, 1923. At the encouragement of her mother-in law, Theodora Kroeber went back to U.C. Berkeley to pursue graduate work in anthropology. It was at this time she met and studied under Alfred Louis Kroeber. In March, 1926, they were married, and she once again settled down to family life, and gave birth to two more children, Karl and Ursula.

This was by no means the end to her intellectual life. She was still immersed in the academic community of Berkeley, as she entertained A. L. Kroeber's colleagues and students and Native Americans who came to their home. She accompanied Alfred on his field trips to Peru (1928-1929 and 1942), and to the Yurok and Mohave country (1930-1958).

After her children had grown, she used the information she had gathered on her travels and from her associations with A. L. Kroeber's colleagues to write The Inland Whale . Published in 1959, it was an academic success. Although she had written a few articles previously, this was the true beginning of her writing career--at the age of 62. She followed two years later with the publication of Ishi in Two Worlds in 1961. The sources she drew from were Ishi's "white men and women friends," one of whom was her husband, A. L. Kroeber. Unfortunately, he was not able to see this project completed. He died in 1960, a year before the book was published. Soon after its publication, Ishi in Two Worlds became a best seller. Theodora Kroeber was brought to the public's attention and forced into the limelight. Even though she had never met the man, she was now the authority on this new American hero. Letters, fan mail and requests for appearances came pouring in from people who were touched by the story of Ishi.

Her writing career flourished and she spent the next 20 years of her life writing and publishing stories, poetry, novels and articles, including "Poem for the Living," which was another popular success, and Alfred Kroeber, A Personal Configuration, a biography of her late husband. She also oversaw the publication of Yurok Myths and Karok Myths, two unpublished works by A. L. Kroeber.

In December, 1970, she married once again, this time to a man 40 years her junior. John Harrison had served as one of her editors for Almost Ancestors .

In 1977, Governor Jerry Brown asked her to fill an unexpired term on the University of California Board of Regents, and she accepted. Serving in this position was too exhausting for her, so less than a year after being appointed, she resigned. She died of cancer in her Berkeley home on July 4, 1979.

From the guide to the Theodora Kroeber papers, 1881-1983, 1960-1979, (The Bancroft Library.)


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Ark ID:


  • Cliff-dwellings--Photographs
  • Authors, American--20th century
  • Publishers and publishing--History--20th century
  • Anthropologists
  • Cooking
  • Women authors, American--20th century


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  • New Mexico (as recorded)
  • Telluride (Colo.) (as recorded)
  • Mesa Verde National Park (Colo.) (as recorded)
  • Colorado (as recorded)
  • California--Berkeley (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)