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Margaret Mead ( 1901 - 1978 )  Category ( Anthropologists ) [suggest a correction]

Margaret MeadMargaret Mead was a second-generation anthropologist and a bit of a dichotomy, as she was interested in both religion and sexual behavior. Although married three times, Mead also conducted romantic relationships with women. Her reports about the purportedly healthy attitude towards sex in South Pacific and Southeast Asian traditional cultures amply informed the 1960s sexual revolution, yet she remained a conventional Anglican Christian to her life's end, and took a considerable part in the drafting of the 1979 American Book of Common Prayer.

Mead began life as the first of five children born to a Quaker couple in Pennsylvania on December 16, 1901. Her family moved often, so her education was sporadic, fluctuating between home schooling and traditional schools. She received her BA from Bernard in 1923 and her MA from Columbia University in 1925. She traveled to Polynesia for field work in 1925 and then graduated from Columbia with her PhD in 1929.

She was a professor of anthropology and chair of Division of Social Sciences at Fordham University's Lincoln Center campus from 1968 to 1970, founding their anthropology department. As an author, Mead's works have been challenged occasionally, but the critiques have not been sustained by the professional anthropology community. A harbinger of progressive thought, Mead often was criticized for her modernism during an era when no one over thirty was to be trusted. The governor of Florida called her a "dirty old lady" for her views on decriminalizing marijuana, and the wife on the Attorney General called her a "spook."

Mead had one daughter by her third husband, and her pediatrician was Dr. Benjamin Spock. It is said that Mead's ideas about child-rearing influenced much of Spock's philosophies, rhetoric that helped to guide an entire generation of American mothers during the 1950s. Mead's daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson, is a third-generation anthropologist, following in her mother's and grandmother's shoes.

Mead died of pancreatic cancer on November 15, 1978. Two years after death, her name was added to the leading feminist of the century. She was one of the most prominent female anthropologists of the first half of the twentieth century.

Image: Dr. Margaret Mead, half-length portrait, facing right, reading book. World-Telegram photo by Edward Lynch. No copyright restriction known. Staff photographer reproduction rights transferred to Library of Congress through Instrument of Gift.

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