Matilda Coxe Stevenson (1849-1915; though her birth year is often erroneously listed as 1850) was the first woman to study the American Southwest and the first (and for a long time the only) female anthropologist hired by the US government. Born Matilda Coxe Evans in 1849 in San Augustine, Texas, Stevenson was brought to Washington, D.C., as an infant. She was educated at Miss Anable’s English, French, and German School in Philadelphia and through private studies with her father and Dr. William M. Mew of the Army Medical Museum. In 1872 she married James Stevenson, a geologist with the US Geological Survey of the Territories. From 1872-1878, Matilda joined James on Ferdinand V. Hayden’s geological surveys to Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah, and assisted him by compiling geological data. When the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) was created in 1879, Matilda Stevenson was appointed “volunteer coadjutor [sic] in ethnology” and she went with James on his BAE expeditions to the Southwest.
After James Stevenson’s death in 1888, BAE Director John Wesley Powell hired Matilda Stevenson to organize her husband’s notes. In 1889, Stevenson became regular BAE staff. From 1890 to 1907, Stevenson did substantial individual fieldwork at Zuni and published "The Zuni Indians: Their Mythology, Esoteric Fraternities, and Ceremonies" in the Bureau of American Ethnology’s Twenty-Third Annual Report (1901-2). Starting in 1904, Stevenson conducted comparative studies at Zia, Jemez, San Juan, Cochiti, Nambe, Picarus, Tesuque, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, and Taos. In 1907 she purchased a ranch (Ton’yo) near San Ildefonso, which became her base for fieldwork. Stevenson died in Maryland on June 24, 1915.