|Born||September 10 1907|
|Died||February 27 1992|
|Birth Location||Cloquet, Minnesota|
Anthropologist and Community Analysis Section staff member; co-author of Impounded People: Japanese Americans in the Relocation Centers.
Katharine Luomala (pronounced low-ah-ma-la) was born in 1907 in Cloquet, Minnesota, a small farming town, to Finnish immigrant parents. Drawn to folklore through stories told by her mother and uncle about Finland and pioneer settlement in Minnesota, she entered the University of California at Berkeley in 1927 wanting to study anthropology and folklore. She graduated with A.B. (1931) and M.A. (1933) degrees. Her work came to the attention of Martha Warren Beckwith, a renowned folklorist at Vassar College, who invited Luomala to assist her with fieldwork at the Bishop Museum in Hawai'i in 1934. Drawn to the islands, she decided to devote her doctoral dissertation to a study of Hawaiian folklore, finishing her Ph.D. in 1936. She was able to return to Hawai'i on joint Bishop Museum/Yale University fellowship in 1938 to do further research on Hawai'i and the Pacific.
When World War II limited her ability to do further research in the Pacific, she moved to Washington, DC, where she worked as an interviewer and analyst for the Division of Program Surveys in the Department of Agriculture. While in Washington, she was hired by Edward Spicer, the head of the Community Analysis Section (CAS) of the War Relocation Authority (WRA) as his assistant and later as acting head, coordinating the work of anthropologists and social scientists working at the various WRA concentration camps. As part of the WRA "relocation" program, Luomala did fieldwork in Northern and Central California from December 1944 to February 1945. After the war ended, she was one of four CAS staff members who remained in Washington to author the CAS final report, published as Impounded People: Japanese Americans in the Relocation Centers. She also authored three articles based on her CAS experience for academic journals.
She returned to Honolulu in 1946 taking a faculty position in anthropology at the University of Hawai'i, where she would remain for the rest of her academic career. She became known for her expertise in Hawaiian and Pacific folklore, publishing books such as Maui of a Thousand Tricks, on a Hawaiian demigod, and Voices in the Wind, on Polynesian oral tradition. She retired as a full professor in 1973. She remained in Honolulu for the rest of her life, passing away on February 27, 1992 at age 84.
For More Information
Krauss, Bob. "Katharine Luomala, Folklore Expert." Honolulu Advertiser, Mar. 4, 1992, C5.
Luomala, Katharine. "California Takes Back Its Japanese Evacuees: The Readjustment of California to the Return of the Japanese Evacuees." American Anthropology 5.3 (Summer 1946): 25–39. [Surveys attitudes of Californians in the Bay Area and Central Valley about the return of Japanese Americans, based on fieldwork from Dec. '44 to Feb. '45.]
———. "Community Analysis by the War Relocation Authority Outside the Relocation Centers." Applied Anthropology 6.1 (Winter 1947): 25-31. [On the work of community analysts outside camp, beginning with tentative and bureaucratically challenged forays to Denver, Chicago and DC, then the West Coast and New York. Largely focuses on inter-agency dynamics and issues these analysts faced, many of which were the same as those faced by analysts in the camps.]
———. "Research and the Records of the War Relocation Authority." Applied Anthropology 7.1 (Winter 1948): 23-32. [Background and overview of WRA documents made available in the National Archives and at Berkeley, including the published reports, general files, and CAS records.]
Spicer, Edward H., Asael T. Hansen, Katharine Luomala, and Marvin K. Opler. Impounded People: Japanese Americans in the Relocation Centers. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Interior, 1946. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1969.
Stewart, Lois. "Dr. Luomala Expert in Isle History, Mythology." Honolulu Advertiser, June 22, 1952, 12.
Takeuchi, Floyd. "Katharine Luomala Counted Menehune Among her Friends." Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Mar. 4, 1992, D6
- Melville J. Herskovits, editor, International Directory of Anthropologists, Third Edition, Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association, 1950, 115; Floyd Takeuchi, "Katharine Luomala Counted Menehune Among her Friends," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Mar. 4, 1992, D6; Bob Krauss, "Katharine Luomala, Folklore Expert," Honolulu Advertiser, Mar. 4, 1992, C5; Lois Stewart, "Dr. Luomala Expert in Isle History, Mythology," Honolulu Advertiser, June 22, 1952, 12.
- Herskovitz, International Directory, Edward H. Spicer, "Anthropologists and the War Relocation Authority," in The Uses of Anthropology, edited by Walter Goldschmidt (Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association, 1979), 223; Katharine Luomala, "California Takes Back Its Japanese Evacuees: The Readjustment of California to the Return of the Japanese Evacuees," American Anthropology 5.3 (Summer 1946): 28.
- Takeuchi, "Katharine Luomala"; Krauss, "Katharine Luomala."