Margaret Mead was born on Monday, December 16 th, 1901 at West Park Hospital in Philadelphia. It was there that she relieved the honor of being the first baby born in that hospital. Growing up she felt different than others, she had been the only child who hadn’t been born at home, and became very jealous. She also felt that living with rational parents made it very difficult for her to even identify with many people. Margaret went to school at Barnard and majored in psychology where she met Franz Boas, a great anthropologist who became her mentor. Later she earned a doctorate at Columbia.
Mead really enjoyed anthropology, she believed it was a way to bring new understandings of human behaviour to bear on in the future. In September of 1923 Margaret married Luther. And in 1925 Mead did her first field work. She headed for American Samoa and focused on Manu adolescent girls and related them to American adolescent girls. She found that their culture influences personality, not genetics. It was then, when she wrote her first book Coming of Age in Samoa.
On her way back from American Samoa, Margaret met anthropologist Reo Fortune and fell in love. Soon after, she divorced Luther and re-married. In 1929 Margaret travelled to New Guinea with Reo to study the play and imaginations of younger children, and how they were shaped by adult society. Her second book was published shortly after, it was titled Growing Up in New Guinea. A second trip to New Guinea Margaret found herself studying sex roles in culture. It was there that Mead discovered the difference of the Arapesh culture and Mudugmor.
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Both sexes of the Arapesh culture had equal roles of raising the children. Mudugmor on the other hand was seen as mean and aggressive, children were often left to live on their own, and those infants of the wrong sex were often thrown in the river to die. While studying the Tchambuli Margaret met Gregory Bateson, another anthropologist and quickly fell in love again. She soon divorced Reo and married for the third time. Mead & Bateson (1938) Throughout her marriage with Gregory, Margaret tried desperately to have a child but had several miscarriages. But at the age of 37, on December 8 th, 1939, Mary Catherine Bateson was born.
And later in life she also became a grandmother. Her life was then complete. Mead had taught at many institutions, but her long term professional base was at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. She had written approximately 20 books and had co-written just as many. Margaret was honored in her lifetime, she served as president of major scientific associations, including the American Anthropological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and she received 28 honorary doctorates.
Margaret Mead was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom following her death in 1978. Her voluminous archives are now housed in the Library of Congress. As an anthropologist, Mead had been taught to see connections in all aspects of human life. For example, the production of food not being separated from ritual and belief, and seeing that politics cannot be separated from child rearing or art. Margaret Mead had studied many different cultures that had many different values and personal roles. She had disproved the theory that masculine and feminine roles were unchangeable, she realised that their attributes were determined by systematic effort from their parents, not by the sexually identifiable distinctions.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” — Margaret Mead (1901-1978) Books by Margaret Mead: Growing Up in New Guinea The Changing Culture of an Indian Tribe People and Places Anthropology: A Human Science An Anthropologist at Work: Writings of Ruth Benedict Culture and Commitment Rap on Race.
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