Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online

For Participating Institutions

Emma Shaw Colcleugh Collection (msESC)

Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology

Brown University
300 Tower Street
Bristol, RI 02809
Tel: (401) 863-5700

Biographical Note

For a more detailed biography see Out of the North: The Subartic Collection of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology

Emma Shaw was born on September 3, 1846 in Thompson, Connecticut, the child of George W. Shaw and Abby Carpenter. She moved to Providence, Rhode Island at age 18 to begin a career as a primary school teacher. In 1875, she began her interest in travel based journalism by writing about her trip to the upper banks of Lake Superior to visit relatives in Minnesota, subsequently published in the Providence Daily Journal. Between the years of 1884 and 1910 she traveled extensively; documenting her travels as an early ethnographer, visiting Alaska (1884 & 1885), Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba (1888-1893) and the Northwest Territories (1894), Canada, where she first began collecting ethnographic material, Hawaii (1891 & 1897), Samoa, Fiji Islands, New Zealand and Tahiti (1897), Cuba (1898), Puerto Rico (1900), Africa (1902) and South America (1910).

She married Frederick William Colcleugh, a Canadian (d. 1907) on May 17, 1893, and lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, for four years before divorcing in 1897. She was also an avid photographer, often giving lectures on her travels with accompanying stereopticon presentations. Emma Shaw Colcleugh retired from journalism in 1927 at age 81 and in 1930, sold the entirety of her field collections to Rudolf Haffenreffer, Jr.. In 1932, she wrote a series of nineteen articles for the Providence Evening Bulletin entitled “I Saw These Things” which documented her experiences during her years of traveling. Her last trip was a solo train ride to Florida in 1937 at age 91.