Marija Alseikaite Gimbutiene was born on 21 January 1921 in Vilnius, at that time the capital of an independent Lithuania. Her mother was then 37 years old, mature and capable of bringing up a large family. In later interviews, Gimbutas described her growing up in the Lithuanian forest as 'an idyllic childhood'. Her parents were kind and loving doctors, both with strong interests in ethnography, folklore and history. Gimbutas has described her mother, her aunt and their female friends as emancipated - her mother became one of the first female doctors in Switzerland. The encouragement which she received was typical of the attitudes towards girls in her family and presumably made a major impact on her belief in the possibiliry of female advancement in life and in career.