The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead: A Historical Analysis of Her Samoan Research

By Derek Freeman | Go to book overview

2
At Barnard:
Studying with Franz Boas
and Ruth Benedict

WHEN MARGARET MEAD WAS AT COLLEGE in New York City in the early 1920s, it seemed, so she thought, that she could "make one of three choices." She could become "a scientist" or "an artist," or she could "go straight into politics and try to improve the state of the world right away." 1

At seventeen, when she went to De Pauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, she intended to "become a writer" and took courses in English composition and literature. But in Indiana, what she most longed for was to be in New York City, "where Mencken and George Jean Nathan were publishing Smart Set," where the Freeman, the New Republic, and the Nation flourished, and where Luther Cressman, to whom she had become secretly engaged soon after her sixteenth birthday, was a student at the General Theological Seminary. In September 1920, having with some difficulty gained her father's approval, she entered Barnard College of Columbia University, where she continued to major in English. 2

With the protracted horrors of World War I finally over, the early 1920s in the United States were a time of great hope for the future. Throughout her life, as she herself put it, Mead always "made it a practice to try to alter the climate of opinion" so that "new ideas" might "bud and flower." It was to this end that her literary talents were put from the very outset of her academic career. At De Pauw

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