Mead, Margaret

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Mead, Margaret

Margaret Mead, 1901–78, American anthropologist, b. Philadelphia, grad. Barnard, 1923, Ph.D. Columbia, 1929. In 1926 she became assistant curator, in 1942 associate curator, and from 1964 to 1969 she was curator of ethnology of the American Museum of Natural History, New York City. After 1954 she served as adjunct professor of anthropology at Columbia. A student and collaborator of Ruth Benedict, she focused her interests on problems of child rearing, personality, and culture. Her fieldwork was carried out primarily among the peoples of Oceania. She was also active with the World Federation for Mental Health. A prolific writer and avid speaker who enjoyed engaging the general public, Mead was instrumental in popularizing the anthropological concept of culture with readers in the United States. She also stressed the need for anthropologists to understand the perspective of women and children. Her works include Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), Growing Up in New Guinea (1930), The Changing Culture of an Indian Tribe (1932), Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935), Male and Female (1949), New Lives for Old: Cultural Transformation in Manus, 1928–1953 (1956), People and Places (1959), Continuities in Cultural Evolution (1964), Culture and Commitment (1970), and a biographical account of her early years, Blackberry Winter (1972). She is also the author of a book for young people, People and Places (1959). She edited Cultural Patterns and Technical Change (1953) and a volume of Ruth Benedict's writings, An Anthropologist at Work (1959, repr. 1966).

See studies by Mead's daughter, M. C. Bateson (1985), and by J. Howard (1985).

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