Anthropologist Charlotte M. Otten lived among us for 104 years, dying April 5, 2020, in Waunakee, Wisconsin. She was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in 1916, the only daughter of Robert and Aurabelle (Blake) Otten. She earned a BA in zoology from Carleton College (Northfield, Minnesota) in 1937, and a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Michigan in 1963. She taught briefly at the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin, then spent a good many years at Northern Illinois University (DeKalb), retiring in the late 1970s and returning to live in Stoughton, Madison, and finally, in Waunakee.
Otten’s specialties were in the art and esthetics of tribal and folk people, and in blood group or anthropological genetics, topics which she also taught. She worked with Robert and Linda Braidwood at the archaeological site of Jarmo, Iraq, in the late 1940s. Among her scholarly publications was a journal article entitled, On Pestilence, Diet, Natural Selection, and the Distribution of Microbial and Human Blood Group Antigens and Antibodies, in Current Anthropology (1967). She also edited a text still in print and cited by scholars, Anthropology and Art, Readings in Cross-Cultural Aesthetics (1971).
In her private life, Otten was known for her love of cats and for loyal friendships. She was for many years a close friend to arctic anthropologist Catherine (Kitty) McClellan (1921–2009); I was her student at the University of Wisconsin and we became friends for life. She loved all forms of science and kept up reading and discussing novelties even as her sight gradually disappeared. Otten did not marry and leaves only distant relatives.
Much thanks for helping me complete this obituary to Maren Anderson (Charlotte’s great niece), and anthropologists Herb Lewis, Bill Fash, Clark Larsen, Cecil Brown, and Laurence Ralph (who located Otten’s publications in Current Anthropology).
(Claire M. Cassidy)
Cite as: Cassidy, Claire M. 2020. “Charlotte M. Otten.” Anthropology News website, December 7, 2020. DOI: 10.14506/AN.1549