Marion Benedict, Oct. 19, 1923-Nov.18, 2020
Writer, traveler and ever-curious spirit, Marion Steuber Benedict died on Nov. 18, 2020 at the age of 97, after living in Berkeley for 52 years.
Marion’s adventurous life included leaving her hometown in Pennsylvania to work in New York during the war; living for 27 years in London, England; dwelling on two remote islands in the Indian Ocean; and traveling around the world for an entire year during 1974-5.
Marion grew up in the small town of Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, the youngest of three children. At the age of about 18, she left for New York to work in a defense factory for the war effort, then later lived in a rent-controlled apartment on the Upper East Side, where she worked for the organization that eventually founded the United Nations in 1945.
She met her husband, Burton Benedict, in New York, and when, after the war, he went to London to pursue his PhD in anthropology at the London School of Economics, she joined him and married him there in 1950. Fascinated by post-war London, where food was rationed and beef unobtainable, the couple thought they would stay a few years. They stayed nearly 30, and, throughout it all, Marion wrote long and detailed letters to friends and relatives chronicling the Great Fog of London in 1952, the Queen’s Coronation and daily life in London during the 1950s and ‘60s, where she cultivated an expertise in art and antique jewelry.
With Burton and her children, Marion left London at times to live on the islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles during the late 1950s, 1960 and 1975, conducting fieldwork interviews as a self-educated anthropologist. This resulted in the book she co-authored with Burton, Men, Women and Money in the Seychelles (University of California Press, 1982), as well as in her 1985 article, “Fact Versus Fiction: An Ethnographic Paradox Set in the Seychelles,” published in Anthropology Today, the journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of the UK.
In 1969, Marion and Burton moved to Berkeley, where he had been appointed professor of anthropology at the university. There, she obtained her BA and MA degrees and, during the 1990s, became a book reviewer and columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune and elsewhere. She and Burton divided their time between Berkeley and London until he died in 2010.
In her later years, Marion replaced her beloved tennis game with bridge, becoming an avid and accomplished player in tournaments all around the Bay Area. She was also a loving mother to her daughters, Helen and Barbara Benedict, both professors and authors; and an enthusiastic and fun-loving grandmother and great-grandmother.
Marion is survived by her aforementioned daughters; her grandchildren, Simon and Emma Benedict O’Connor; and her great-grandson, Iggy.