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

By Derek Freeman | Go to book overview

Appendix:
From the Correspondence of
Franz Boas and
Margaret Mead, 1925-1926

This appendix contains ten letters, four of them by Franz Boas and six of them by Margaret Mead. These letters document the course of Mead's research in Manu'a. They are listed in chronological order and, in each instance, the full text is given. ( Mead's misspelling of Samoan words has been corrected.)

(1) Franz Boas's letter to Margaret Mead of July 14, 1925, written in New York on the eve of her departure for Samoa. In this letter, Boas, who had already instructed Mead not to engage in ethnological research in Samoa, mentions again the "practical danger" that "regular ethnological questions" might become "so attractive" to her that she might be tempted to slight her principal task, which was the study of heredity and environment in relation to adolescence.

July 14, 1925

My dear Margaret,

I suppose the time is drawing near when you want to leave. Let me impress on you once more first of all that you should not forget your health. I am sure you will be careful in the tropics and try to adjust yourself to conditions and not work when it is too hot and moist in the day time. If you find that you cannot stand the climate do not be ashamed to come back. There are plenty of other places where you could solve the same problem on which you propose to work.

I am sure you have thought over the question carefully, but there are one or two points which I have in mind and to which I would like to call your attention, even if you have thought of them before.

One question that interests me very much is how the young girls react to the restraints of custom. We find very often among ourselves during the period of adolescence a strong rebellious spirit that may be expressed in sullenness or in sudden outbursts. In other individuals there is a weak submission

-219-

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