Sister Marie Inez Hilger was a native of Minnesota. Shortly after taking up her vocation as a Benedictine nun, she served as a teacher in a school that was to become the College of St. Benedict at St. Joseph, Minnesota. She also trained as a nurse. The development of her school brought Sister Inez to pursue further study, first in sociology at the University of Minnesota. For her advanced graduate work in sociology and anthropology, she became the first woman admitted to the Catholic University of America in Washington, D. C.
Sister Inez's field work began among the Chippewa of her native state. Although her first concern was social problems, she eventually developed a speciality in the life of children, a study which she pursued among several North American Indian tribes, in Latin America, and in Japan among the Ainu. For the Institute of Human Relations at Yale, she prepared a field guide for the study of child life. Her last work was the collection of so-called grandmother tales, stories that older women told children.
Electronic finding aid available via the website of the National Anthropological Archives
Most of the papers were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Sister Inez in 1974. An increment was sent by Sister Inez's niece Mary K. Zirbes in 1977. Another increment was received from St. Benedict's Convent in St. Joseph, Minnesota, 1979.
Addl. KW Subjects:
Collection is organized into the following 22 series: (1) Diaries and notebooks, 1946-1947; 1966-1968 (2) material relating to the Field Guide to the Ethnological Study of Child Life, 1932-1966; (3) note slips regarding the Chippewa, 1932-1942; (4) Chippewa photographs, 1932-1940; (5) note slips, photographs, and other material concerning the Arapaho, 1935-1942; (6)miscellaneous field and reading notes, 1936-1943; (7) note slips from secondary sources, n.d.; (8) "Notes on Crow Culture," ca. 1970; (9) note slips concerning the Araucanians, 1946-1947; 1951-1952; (10) Araucanian photographs, 1946-1952; (11) miscellaneous Araucanian material, 1916-1965; (12) material regarding Huenun Namkui: An Araucanian Indian of the Andes Remembers the Past, 1952-1962; (13) material regarding the Ainu and Together with the Ainu, ca. 1965-1971; (14) material relating to psychological tests administered to Ainu and Japanese school children, 1964-1969; (15) Ainu photographs, 1957-1965; (16) material regarding the television course "Anthropology of the Americas," 1957-1958; (17) writings, 1931-1964; (18) printed material, most 1930s-1970s; (19) miscellany, 1938-1970; (20) sound recordings, 1952, 1965-1976; (21) maps, 1929-1958; (22) miscellaneous photographs, 1932-1946
Most of the collection concerns Sister Inez's study of child life of the Chippewa, Arapaho, Araucanian, Ainu, miscellaneous papers about other tribes of the Plains, Southwest, Southeast, and Latin America. Part of the material is based on readings, the remainder on her own field work. Most of this material is in the form of note slips, the original notes from which they were made having presumably been destroyed. There are also materials that reflect her interest in social problems, particularly among the Chippewa. Some recordings reflect an interest in early days in Montana. There are also some of the so-called grandmother stories.
The material concerning the Ainu includes material of Chiye Sano and Midori Yamaha, Sister Inez's assistants in Japan. The papers also include a very small amount of correspondence of Margaret Mead and Rhoda Metraux. Most of Sister Inez's correspondence has been retained by the College of St. Benedict.
Sister Marie Inez Hilger Papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Museum Support Center, Suitland, Maryland