"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead.
The cultural anthropologist and writer Margaret Mead (190178) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA and raised near
Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Her father was an economist at the University of
Pennsylvania, her mother a feminist political activist. She studied at
DePauw University, graduated from Barnard College in 1923; and from Columbia
University, with a PhD in 1929. In 1925 she carried out undergraduate
fieldwork in Polynesia. She later published the findings from her
expeditions to Samoa and New Guinea in Coming of Age in Samoa (1928) and
Growing Up in New Guinea (1930). In 1926 she joined the American
Museum of Natural History in New York as an assistant curator; she was quickly
promoted to curator, a position she held until 1969, and she maintained a
connection with the museum up until her death.
During World War II she served as executive secretary of the National Research
Council's Committee on Food Habits. From 1954 she taught at Columbia
University as an adjunct professor, and held various positions in the American
Association for the Advancement of Science, including those of president and
chair of the executive committee of the board of directors.
She was married and divorced three times; first to Luther Cressman (a
theological student, who became an anthropologist after they separated), then to
two anthropologists - first Reo Fortune, and then to Gregory Bateson (193650)
with who she had a daughter,
Bateson, who is also an anthropologist.
Mead also had a close relationship with anthropologist Ruth Benedict (1887
- 1948). In her memoir, With a Daughter's Eye, Mary
Catherine implies that this relationship was sexual. Mead never identified
herself as a lesbian but in her writings she did propose that it was to be
expected that an individual's sexual orientation could change during their
Her later works included Male and Female (1949) and Growth and Culture
(1951), in which she argued that personality characteristics, especially as they
differ between men and women, were shaped by cultural conditioning rather than
Although she is considered a pioneering anthropologist by some, other academics
have disagreed with some of her findings. However, there is no doubt that
she made anthropology accessible to a wider audience and, in her later years,
her presence and opinions were widely sought.
"I must admit that I personally measure success in terms of the
contributions an individual makes to her or his fellow human beings." - Margaret Mead.