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A Missouri S&T historian is telling the seemingly forgotten story of America’s first female Egyptologist.
Dr. Kathleen Sheppard, associate professor of history and political science at Missouri S&T, wondered why there was so little mention of the scholarly work of Dr. Caroline Ransom Williams, America’s first university-trained female Egyptologist, in archaeology’s published history. After all, Ransom Williams was a former student and longtime colleague of Dr. James Henry Breasted, the first American Egyptologist and founder of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
Sheppard’s 310-page book about America’s first female Egyptologist was released by Archaeopress in March 2018
To find the answer, Sheppard spent two years researching, transcribing and editing 240 letters between Ransom Williams and Breasted that are archived at the Oriental Institute. This collection of correspondence is now published in the first book-length discussion of Ransom William’s life and career, “My dear Miss Ransom: Letters between Caroline Ransom Williams and James Henry Breasted, 1898 – 1935,” edited by Sheppard and released by Archaeopress Publishing Ltd. in March 2018.
Sheppard’s research focuses on the history of Egyptology in the U.S. and in the U.K. and especially women’s roles in the discipline. She finds that telling the life stories of women in Egyptology is crucial to fully understanding the whole story of the discipline.
“In the history of archaeology, it was the men who went out into the exotic fields to dig in the dirt and make exciting discoveries; women usually stayed back in the institutions to do the maintenance work of curating the collections and performing administrative duties,” says Sheppard. “Although this work was essential to preserving the early stages of Egyptology, it has largely been ignored. Through the letters in this volume, we see a woman’s life that is unique while at the the same time, similar to the lives …