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

By Derek Freeman | Go to book overview

13
From Pago Pago to New York:
Via Paris, London,
and Rome

IN NOVEMBER 1925, MEAD HAD INITIALLY THOUGHT that living in the U.S. Naval Dispensary on Ta'ū was "really an excellent arrangement," but by March 1926, less than four months later, her attitude had changed, and as she confessed to Boas, she very much wanted to escape from the society of the dispensary's "tiny white colony." In her letter to Boas of April 7, 1926, she avowed that Polynesia, with her orders "to be as one of them," was "very pleasant work," and she went on to record that all the "unpleasantness" had been extraneous: "The heat, the few uncongenial white people, the canned food, the various minor ailments" had all "kept the year from being an unalloyed delight," especially when these "physical discomforts" were added to her "fear of failure." The main reason she had given to Boas on March 19, 1926, for leaving Manu'a much earlier than originally planned was "the increasing difficulty" of living there "with too many people quartered at the Dispensary." Samoa, she announced in a letter written on her last day in the no longer idyllic dispensary, would be a "pleasant paradise" if only "there were no dull white people and mosquitoes." Having her research headquarters in the naval dispensary rather than in a Samoan household had had disadvantages, it is evident, of more than just a methodological kind. Nonetheless, disenchanted as she had been with some of the naval personnel with whom she had had to live, "the Samoan part" she had "loved quite thor-

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