Violetta Maloney Halpert

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Violetta Maloney Halpert
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Violetta (Letty) Goff Maloney

(1919-05-16)May 16, 1919
Pottstown, PA
DiedMay 30, 2009(2009-05-30) (aged 90)
Resting placeSt. John's, Canada
Alma materIndiana University
  • Folklorist
  • Researcher
  • US Navy Veteran
AwardsMarius Barbeau Medal

Violetta Maloney Halpert (16 May 1919 - 30 May 2009),[1] American folklorist, researcher, and US Navy Veteran. Born Violetta (Letty) Goff Maloney, in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, she was instrumental in the development of university folklore collections in Canada.

Military Career

In 1941, she became one of the first women to enlist in the U.S. Navy, eventually joining the newly-formed WAVES. As Ensign with the Office of Naval Procurement,[2] one of her duties was to work as a recruitment officer, giving presentations at colleges about "the duties of women serving in the WAVES... information on requirements for enlistment, what abilities are most in demand in the WAVES, and where and how they are trained."[3] She rose to the rank of Lieutenant and saw active duty as both a Supply Officer and in Recruitment until 1945, remaining in the Reserves until her honourable discharge in 1951.[1]

Folklore Research

Halpert studied English at Wilson College in Pennsylvania and did a masters degree in folk literature at Indiana University in Bloomington.[1] There, she completed additional graduate work in Folklore, studying under Stith Thompson, author of the Motif-Index of Folk Literature, as well as studying under ethnomusicologist George Herzog.[4] It was in Indiana, in 1940, that she met Herbert Halpert, one of Thompson's doctoral students, and they were married during the war.[5] Their son, Nicholas Theodore Halpert, was born in Kentucky on 16 February 1949.[6]

In the spring of 1942, she worked on editing the first issue of the Hoosier Folklore Bulletin.[7] In the 1950s, she chronicled folkloric works in progress for the Journal of American Folklore and researched a variety of genres, including folk cures, skipping rhymes, songs and dances, and death beliefs.[5] She and her professor–husband went to Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, in 1962. There, she worked in the Acquisitions Department of the Queen Elizabeth II Library and pursued her interest in folk literature.[1] At the library, Halpert was "instrumental in acquiring books and materials to make the university's folklore collection the best in Canada".[5]

After her husband's death, she donated her husband’s and her own huge personal collections, containing over 13,000 monographs and journal titles[8], to the archives at Memorial University. Shortly before her ninetieth birthday, she was informed by the Executive of the Folklore Studies Association of Canada that she was to be awarded the Marius Barbeau Medal for her lifelong contribution to Canadian Folklore and Ethnology, an award which she received in 2009.


Halpert died on 30 May 2009 in St. John’s at the age of 90.[9] She was memorialized for "her sharp intellect, sense of humour, and indomitable will"[1] and is remembered for her contributions as a collector of "the 'lore'—the knowledges and wisdoms—of local and regional societies."[10]


Two prizes are named in her honour:

  • Violetta “Letty” Halpert Paper Prize - given to the best student paper delivered at the annual conference of the Folklore Studies Association of Canada.[4]
  • Herbert and Violetta Halpert Travel Research Award - given annually to a full-time student in the MA or PhD program in folklore at Memorial University to fund costs relating to national/international travel for the presentation of folklore research utilizing the MUNFLA Collections.

Select Bibliography

  • "The Hobo Song." Hoosier Folklore, Vol. 1(1942), pp. 101-102.
  • "Jumping Rope Rhymes from Burley, Idaho," Hoosier Folklore, Vol. 3 (1944), pp. 24-25.
  • "Indiana Wart Cures".[11] Hoosier Folklore, Vol. 8, No. 2/3 (Jun. - Sep., 1949), pp. 37-43.
  • "Folk Cures from Indiana."[12] Hoosier Folklore, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1950), pp. 1-12.
  • "Death Beliefs from Indiana."[13] Midwest Folklore, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Winter, 1952), pp. 205-219.
  • "Smoked Corpses."[14] Western Folklore, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Jan., 1959), p. 50.
  • "Place name stories about West Kentucky towns."[15] Kentucky Folklore Record, Vol. 7, No. 3 (1961), p.103.
  • Neither Heaven Nor Hell. Memorial University of Newfoundland Department of Folklore, 1979.
  • "Death Warnings in Newfoundland Oral Traditions."Studies in Newfoundland Folklore: Community and Process,[16] 1991.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Violetta (Letty) Goff Halpert (nee Maloney)". 30 May 2009. Retrieved 23 June 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. "Louisville Women Told That Navy Needs Them". The Courier-Journal. 28 April 1943.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. "AWS Will Hear WAVES Officer: Ensign Violetta Maloney To Speak At Meeting Tomorrow". Butler Collegian. 1943-01-13. Retrieved 24 June 2020.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Violetta "Letty" Halpert Paper Prize". Folklore Studies Association of Canada. Retrieved 23 June 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Martin, Sandra (5 June 2009). "VIOLETTA HALPERT, 90 / LIBRARIAN AND FOLKLORE MUSE". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 23 June 2020.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. "Nicholas Theodore Halpert". Retrieved 23 June 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. Halpert, Herbert (1973). "The Beginnings of the Hoosier Folklore Bulletin" (PDF). FOLKLORE FORUM: A Communication for Students of Folklore. 10: iv.
  8. "The Herbert Halpert Collection -- Folklore". Memorial University Libraries Archives & Special Collections. Retrieved 23 June 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. Beeckmans, Merlyn (2009). "Milestones" (PDF). Ex Libris Association Newsletter. 6: 14.
  10. Hoerder, Dirk (2010). To Know Our Many Selves. Edmonton, AB: AU Press. p. 201. ISBN 978-1-897425-73-2.

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