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Fletcher, Alice Cunninghamlocked

(15 March 1838–06 April 1923)
  • Joan Mark

Extract

Fletcher, Alice Cunningham (15 March 1838–06 April 1923), anthropologist and reformer of U.S. Indian policy, was born in Havana, Cuba, the daughter of Thomas Gilman Fletcher, a lawyer in New York City, and Lucia Adeline Jenks. Her parents were in Cuba to see if the climate there would help her father’s tuberculosis; it did not. The family returned to New York, where her father died when she was twenty months old; her mother was eventually married again, to Oliver C. Gardiner, giving her a stepfather from whose unwanted attentions she fled in her midteens. She was taken in by a wealthy hardware merchant, Claudius Conant, whose daughters were her schoolmates at the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Fletcher served for a time as governess to the younger children in the Conant family and then was set up by Claudius Conant to be financially independent. Fletcher’s difficult teenage years led her to revere her father, whom she had scarcely known. She cherished family stories about him, was proud of being musical, as he was, and liked to identify with his name, thinking of herself as an “archer” (a cognate of “Fletcher”), inclined to “aim her arrows at the sun.”...

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