** HBC biographies Margaret Meade

Margaret Meade

Figure 1.--This is a portrait of the celebrated anthropologist Margaret Mead as a 10-years old child with her brother Richard. Notice Mzargret's hair bow. The studio portrait photo was taken duriung tgheir summer vacation on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts (Summer 1911). It is a studio portrait with a seaside backdrop, part of the reason that they are barefoot. Margaret looks like a determined little girl even at age 11 years. .

Margaret Meade was born in Pjhiladelphia, Pennsylvania (1901). She is a rare acedemic that became a cultural icon. She is certainly the most influential anthropologist of all time. Sge became prominently featured in the American mass media (1960s and 1970s). She was influential in both the Sexual Revolution and nature versus nuture debate and became an ivon of the Feminist Movemenbt. She grew up in a comfortable curcumstances as part of an well educated family. Her father was Edward Sherwood Mead, a professor at the influentional Wharton School of Economucs at the University of Pennsylvania. Her mother, Emily Fogg Mead was a liberally minded sociologist who studied Italian immigrants. Here we see Margaret anbd her brotgher Riuchard (1911). Shortly after receiving her M.A, from Colomobia University, Mead set out to do fieldwork in Samoa (1925). At the time, that was a huge step into the unknown. Young women did not at the time take off to live among 'natives' on her own. Foir that matter it is not all ghat common today. Her first book, Coming of Age in Samoa (1928) is surely the most inflential antropology book ever published. The nature of adolescene was been hotly debated by scholars in the 20th century and many of those issues remain unresolved. One of the earliest works on adolesence is G. Stanley Hall's thesis that adolescence is a time of 'storm and stress'. This thesis was challenged by Margaret Mead in her classic, ground breaking study. Mead after World War II brought anthropology into the public consiceness. And her ideas made her both an influenbtial anb a controversial figure. A HBC reader provides a connscice assessment of her influence, "I think that the emphasis she put on the importance of the culture in the development of personality is important and opened new ways for cultural anthropology, and then for the knowledge of the human being. Perhaps the idea that a whole sexual freedom would be the solution of the main teenage problems is a bit ideological. Culture is very important, as Mead showed, but there are also biological elements." Our assessment is that, " We think our reader's asssessmnent is a fair, reasoned statement. And in the 1920s there were ample reason for criticizing accepted gender roles at thetime or even at mid-century. We wonder where Meade would fall into the modern debate. One of our major issues is the importance of the family. (Much of the inequities in modern America, for example, are the result of the destruction of the black family by Liberal policies.) And we think her work, at least how it has been used , has weakened the modern family. Perhaps even more importantly, modern feminists are insisting that there is no real difference between men and women. I strongly believe in equal pay for equal work, but believe there are very real differences between men and women." Meade's academic rigor has been questioned, but given her status as a feminist icon, the critics have been stronly attacked. It is difficult to fairly sort out the discussion of her work, because many of the participants are so ideologically motivated. The debate on both of her major issues (gender conventions and nature versus nuture have moved on quite a bit from when Meade died (1978). It would be interesting to know where Meade would stand in the current debate.


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Created: 7:21 PM 7/29/2021
Last updated: 7:21 PM 7/29/2021