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Title: Laura M. Thompson Papers, 1938-1954
Authors: Thompson, Laura M.
Issue Date: 1938
Publisher: The Richard Flores Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center.
Citation: [item identification], Laura M. Thompson Papers, 1938-1954, MSS 2650, The Richard Flores Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam. Mangilao, Guam.
Series/Report no.: MSS 2650;
Abstract: Laura Maud Thompson (1905-2000), a distinguished sociocultural anthropologist who studied peoples and cultures around the world, is best known for her comprehensive studies of the Chamorro people of Guam. If indeed the Chamorros of Guam constitute a matrilineal society, then, by virtue of her long-term affiliation with Guam and profound affinity for the Chamorro people, Thompson may be regarded as perhaps Guam’s most significant intellectual mater. Her best known book, Guam and Its People published in 1941, 1947 and 1969, is a singular testament to her admiration and empathy for the Chamorros of Guam. Thompson was born in Honolulu, Hawai’i, on 23 January 1905. In her comprehensive autobiography, Beyond The Dream: A Search For Meaning, Thompson wrote that she possessed a very strong social consciousness by the age of ten and knew that she must devote her life to “helping people.” After graduating from Punahou School in Hawai’i, Thompson received her BA from Mills College, her PhD in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, and later an honorary LLD from Mills College. She also undertook graduate studies at Radcliffe. She taught at the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State College, City College and Brooklyn College of CUNY, Southern Illinois University, San Francisco State University, and the University of Hawai’i. Thompson was the 1979 recipient of the Bronislaw Malinowsky Award from the Society for Applied Anthropology. Thompson was stationed in Hagåtña, Guam’s capital, but she soon set up field headquarters in Merizo, a village at the island’s southern end. There she was assisted by two helpful Chamorro men in learning the language and initiating contact with local families. She had fruitful discussions with the naval governor and his staff as her work progressed. In October 1938, the Guam Recorder heralded Thompson’s arrival on Guam, noting that Thompson had arrived on the Chaumont on 18 October to begin research studies in applied anthropology. This endeavor was sponsored jointly by the University of Hawai’i, the Institute of Pacific Relations, and the naval government. What Thompson learned during her field research in Guam has withstood the test of time. Her in-depth knowledge of Chamorro culture and society, gathered while using the classic field methodology of anthropology, i.e., participant-observation, is lively and penetrating. Her published works about Guam have been studied and admired up to the present day. In the process, Thompson gained lifelong friendships on Guam and a personal mission of being an advocate for the Chamorro people. Having conducted her field studies on Guam before the beginning of World War II, Thompson was denied permission to return to Guam for many years thereafter. This was principally because of her lobbying endeavors in Washington DC on behalf of the people of Guam, especially with reference to their political autonomy. Thompson was actively involved with the Institute of Ethnic Affairs in testifying before numerous U.S. congressional committees. The eventual outcome was a change in Guam’s status, from a dependency to an Unincorporated Territory, when the Guam Organic Act was passed by the United States Congress in 1950. No longer “nationals,” the people of Guam were at last granted US citizenship. On her first return visit to Guam in 1977 Thompson was invited to be the keynote speaker for the Chamorro Studies Conference held at George Washington High School in Mangilao. Thompson visited Guam again in April 1987, as the University of Guam’s Annual College of Arts and Sciences Research Conference keynote speaker. Her erudite presentation on that occasion, entitled “Talking Stones,” appears in print and can also be viewed via videotape at the University of Guam Library.
Appears in Collections:The Manuscripts Collection (MSS)

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