Best known for her work on Southwestern and Paleoindian archaeology, Hannah Marie Wormington was born on September 5, 1914 in Denver, Colorado. From an early age, she was fluent in both English and French,  a skill that would eventually help jump-start her career: while completing her B.A. in Anthropology at the University of Denver, a professor named E.B. Renaud suggested that Wormington travel to France to work at the Paleolithic excavations in the Dordogne, where she spent her 21st birthday. It was during this trip that she met her mentor Dorothy Garrod, and she eventually established other connections in Paris, including Harper Pat Kelley and Henri Martin.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Wormington in 1937.

After graduating in 1935 Wormington was hired at the Colorado Museum of Natural History, now called the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, in the recently formed Department of Archaeology. In 1936, she was promoted to Curator of the Archaeology Department and held this position, on and off, for 33 years. While working at the museum Wormington published two books, Ancient Man in North America and Prehistoric Indians of the Southwest, which became standard texts in undergraduate and graduate archaeology courses for years to come. She eventually went back to school and earned her M.A.  in 1950 and then Ph.D. in 1954 from Radcliffe College (Harvard) in Anthropology, the first woman to do so. During this time women were not welcomed by the men in the Anthropology Department;  despite having established herself as an archaeologist and holding a curatorial position at the Denver Museum, Wormington was required by at least one of her teachers to sit outside of the classroom to take notes.

H.M. Wormington at Turner site

H.M. Wormington at the Turner site.

In 1968, her fortune took a turn as the Department of Archaeology closed its doors and Wormington was dismissed; it was that same year that she became the first women to be elected President of the Society for American Archaeology.

Wormington held a number of temporary positions until 1988,  when the now Denver Museum of Nature and Science granted her with the status of Curator Emeritus, a title she held until her death in 1994. The museum began a named lecture series in her honor that continues to this day.

H. Marie Wormington in the field, Montrose area of Colorado

H. M. Wormington in the field, Montrose area of Colorado.

Written by Jessica Mintz

Edited and posted by Suzie

All images provided courtesy of Denver Museum of Nature and Science and used with permission. 


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