About Jennifer James – Personal Biography
Learn about Jennifer James’ childhood and personal history.

Personal Biography

Portrait of Jennifer James, PhDPortrait of Jennifer James, PhDJennifer James was born during one of the bombings of London in 1943. Her father, Godfrey James was a Welsh coal miner who moved to London and joined the London police force stationed at Scotland Yard. He was middleweight champion of the London police force. Her mother, a daughter of aristocracy, was a police woman (one of the first 100 in Britain) and the two met at the station house.

The family immigrated to Spokane, Washington in 1947 and operated a small farm. Jennifer grew up in Spokane where she was an active rodeo rider and participated in barrel racing and hunt jumping. She delivered the Spokesman Review on horseback throughout her farming community. She graduated from West Valley high school in 1960 and in that year won both the Science Fair and the Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year Award.

She left Spokane to attend Washington State University. Her first major was history (specialty Far East). Her master's degree was in History and Anthropology (thesis on Indian Acculturation in Malaysia. She left Pullman in 1966 and taught at Chico state University (CA). In 1968 she became a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology at the University of Washington in Seattle were she has lived ever since.

Jennifer received her doctorate in 1972. Her dissertation was a study of the language (and the thought processes revealed by that language) of street prostitutes in Seattle. Her research specialties were "culture and illness" and "adaptive strategies." Culture and illness centers on how belief systems can literally make people sick.  Adaptive strategies, her current work, is centered on how and why some people are much more successful at change than others. Jennifer was professor (tenured) at the University of Washington Medical School from 1972 until 1982.

Her gradual movement from the study of street people “deviants” ($2 million in research grants to study prostitutes, drug addicts, female offenders and prisoners, juvenile's, runaways, etc..) to working with corporate executives was not as odd as it sounds, hustlers are hustlers. The ability to think and act differently to survive on the periphery of your culture can create a deviant or a visionary.

She left the University as a full time faculty member in 1982 because of her interest in the real world. She started one of the first talk radio programs in the Northwest and was "Billboard Personality of the Year" in 1980. To see other academic and media awards, please visit the Awards section of this site.

Jennifer’s radio program on KUI became number one in a highly competitive market. She began a column in 1981 for the Seattle Times that was a top rated feature for 18 years. Jennifer did television commentary for seven years until her lecture business expanded to the point that she had to leave the fixed schedule of radio and television. She now lectures and provides seminars around the world.

Jennifer lives in a technological cottage on Puget Sound. She raises koi in the water gardens that surround her home. She is a widow; her son Devon James is a Seattle businessman.

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