Margaret Mead: A Biography

Margaret Mead: A Biography

Margaret Mead: A Biography

Margaret Mead: A Biography

Excerpt

Margaret Mead, anthropologist par excellence, traveled alone to Samoa, a South Pacific island, in 1925 when she was not yet twenty-three years old. Her nine months in Samoa and subsequent trips established Mead as an authority on the cultures of the South Pacific. Her books comparing those cultures to that of the United States became best-sellers and her provocative speeches and articles, which both angered and excited, made her name known across America. During her lifetime, Mead's likeness appeared on packets of sugar that pictured well-known Americans. She corresponded with presidents, was featured in cartoons, was a regular contributor to magazines, and was sought after as a guest on talk radio and television programs.

A few years before her death in 1978, someone leaving an auditorium after one of her speeches commented (Grinager, 1999, p. 75) that although her views were often difficult to accept, what she said was fifty years ahead of her time. In the twenty-first century, the world is just beginning to catch up with her ideas. Mead was always optimistic and opinionated, often irritating, seldom inarticulate, and never dull.

Nor was her personal life routine. For his 1988 edition of Rethinking Psychological Anthropology, a perspective of the dual fields of culture and personality, by Philip Bock, Presidential Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, included pen-and-ink caricatures of noted anthropologists. The illustration of Mead, which was the only caricature of a woman and which depicted her with bared breasts, angered a number of readers. In the 1999 edition, Bock justified the car-

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