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In front of the Petrography National Monument Visitor center sits a sign in honor of Dr. Sophie Aberle, affectionately known as "The Measuring Lady." Dr. Aberle was a American Indian anthropologist, physician, and nutritionist known for her work with Pueblo people. A health researcher and administrator for Indian Affairs, she was born in Schenectady, New York on July 21, 1896. She received a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1927 and a M.D. from Yale in 1930. Aberle served as Superintendent to the United Pueblos Agency, 1935-1944 and Executive Directory of the Commission on the Rights, Liberties and Responsibilities of the American Indian, 1959-1966. She died in Albuquerque in 1996.


  • "The Measuring Lady" sign at the Petroglyph National Monument
  • Dr. Sophie Aberle before her death

Aberle was educated at Stanford University, earning a bachelor's degree in 1923, a master's degree in 1925, and a Ph.D. in genetics in 1927. She then attended medical school, earning an M.D. from Yale University in 1930. While a student, she worked as an assistant histologist, embryologist, and neurologist, and as an anthropology instructor.

Though she began her career with a 4-year stint as an instructor at Yale, Aberle spent most of her career working in Native American areas. She was employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs from 1935 to 1944, then took a position with National Research Council until 1949, and from 1949 to 1954 at the University of New Mexico. In 1948, her first major book was published, which placed Aberle as a strong proponent of Pueblo land rights.

She and Gerty Cori were the first women appointed to the National Science Board by President Harry Truman in 1951. Aberle remained a member until 1957. She worked for the Bernalillo County Indian Hospital as its chief nutritionist until 1966 when she returned to the University of New Mexico as a professor of psychiatry, a position she maintained until her 1970 retirement.

Aberle spent much of her career working on committees for land allocation and health. She was a member of the upper Rio Grande drainage basin committee, the health committee of the All Indian Pueblo Council, the New Mexico Nutrition Committee, the White House Conference on Children in Democracy, the Committee of Maternal and Infant Mortality, Planned Parenthood, and was the chair of the board of directors for the Southwest Field Training School for Federal Service and the Commission on Rights, Liberties, and Responsibilities of American Indians.


Professional Works:
The Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, Their Land, Economy and Civil Organization

The Indian: America's Unfinished Business

Other sources:

Bailey, Martha J. (1994). American Women in Science. ABC-CLIO, Inc. 

Wayne, Tiffany K. (2011-01-01). American Women of Science Since 1900. ABC-CLIO. 

Marilyn Ogilvie and Joy Harvey, eds. (2000). The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science. Great Britain: Routledge. p. 6.

National Science Foundation. "A Timeline of NSF History".