April 24, 2023
Cowboy Up hosts recently interviewed author Shelby Tisdale about her new book, No Place for a Lady, The Life Story of Archaeologist Marjorie F. Lambert.
Dude rancher Russell True and cowboy H. Alan Day interviewed Tisdale in Tucson, Arizona. Listen to the interview here: Breaking Through the Glass (or in This Case, the Dirt!). It’s also available on Apple podcasts.
Marjorie Lambert knew what she loved: archeology, specifically southwestern archeology. But back around 1930, excavation sites were not a place for women. That didn’t deter Marjorie, a trailblazer who, during her illustrious career, worked as a field manager, museum director, curator, professor, and what’s more, married a cowboy who became a dude rancher. When author Shelby Tisdale met Marjorie Lambert and got to know her, she knew that she had to write a biography about this extraordinary woman.
Marjorie Lambert’s first experience leading an excavation was when she taught a summer archaeology and anthropology class in New Mexico. Tisdale explains in the podcast, “They did a fantastic excavation at the Tecalote site. It was an ancestral Pueblo site from 1300 C.E. and a Plains Apache site. She was told by many men that she would never be able to get any men to work for her and she proved them wrong.”
As a graduate student, Tisdale had the opportunity to meet Marjorie Lambert. Lambert was losing her eyesight, so Tisdale volunteered to read to her. “We’d have a little dinner, maybe some wine or a margarita, and I’d sit and read to her,” Tisdale says. “Then our discussions would focus on her life, and what it was like being a woman in the field, and I was just starting my career. So we would compare notes.” A few years later the author asked Lambert is she could write a biography about her, and Lambert agreed. “And 35 years later, I finally finished the book!” says Tisdale.
More about the book:
Through Lambert’s life story we gain new insight into the intricacies and politics involved in the development of archaeology and museums in New Mexico and the greater Southwest. We also learn about the obstacles that young women had to maneuver around in the early years of the development of southwestern archaeology as a profession. Tisdale brings into focus one of the long-neglected voices of women in the intellectual history of anthropology and archaeology and highlights how gender roles played out in the past in determining the career paths of young women. She also highlights what has changed and what has not in the twenty-first century.
Women’s voices have long been absent throughout history, and Marjorie Lambert’s story adds to the growing literature on feminist archaeology.