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WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

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Woman of the Week – Margaret Mead

Posted February 05, 2018 4:45 PM by lmno24

Margaret Mead was an American cultural anthropologist who featured frequently as an author and speaker in the mass media during the 1960s and 1970s.

Mead was a respected and often controversial academic who popularized the insights of anthropology in modern American and Western culture. Her reports showing attitudes towards sex in South Pacific and Southeast Asian traditional cultures influenced the 1960s sexual revolution. She was a proponent of broadening sexual mores within a context of traditional Western religious life.

Mead, the first of five children grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Her father, Edward Sherwood Mead, was a professor of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and her mother, Emily (née Fogg) Mead, was a sociologist who studied Italian immigrants. Her sister Katharine died at only nine months old and her passing was traumatizing for Mead. She had named the child and thoughts of what her sister’s life could have been infiltrated her daydreams for many years. When her other two sisters were born, she was elated. She penned a letter to her sister Elizabeth offering advice on starting a family in such an uncertain world. Her youngest sister was named Priscilla and she also had a brother named Richard.

Mead earned her bachelor's degree at Barnard College in New York City and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University. She was appointed assistant curator of ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History in 1926. After expeditions to Samoa and New Guinea, she published Coming of Age in Samoa (1928) — which became a best seller — and Growing Up in New Guinea (1930).

Mead's findings in Coming of Age in Samoa suggested that the community ignores both boys and girls until they are about 15 or 16. Before then, children have no social standing within the community. Mead also found that marriage is regarded as a social and economic arrangement where wealth, rank and job skills of the husband and wife are taken into consideration.

Her later works included Male and Female (1949) and Growth and Culture (1951), in which she argued that personality characteristics, especially as they differ between men and women, were shaped by cultural conditioning rather than heredity. Some critics called her fieldwork impressionistic, but her writings have proved enduring and have made anthropology accessible to a wider group of people.

Over the years, Mead became an in-demand lecturer, often tackling controversial social issues. She also wrote a column for Redbook magazine and was a popular interview subject. She continued to work for the American Museum of Natural History until 1969 and was an adjunct professor at Columbia University for a time. In 1972, Mead published her autobiography, Blackberry Winter.

Another influential book by Mead was Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies. This became a major marker of the feminist movement, since it claimed that females are dominant in the Tchambuli (now spelled Chambri) Lake region of the Sepik basin of Papua New Guinea (in the western Pacific) without causing any special problems. The lack of male dominance may have been the result of the Australian administration's outlawing of warfare.

She passed away in November 1978. On January 19, 1979, President Jimmy Carter announced that he was awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to Mead.

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#1

Re: Woman of the Week – Margaret Mead

02/05/2018 8:03 PM

Far out...

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Re: Woman of the Week – Margaret Mead

02/05/2018 11:05 PM

wow indeed.

her other book?

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Re: Woman of the Week – Margaret Mead

02/07/2018 11:56 PM

Huh, I haven't thought of Margaret Mead in a very long time. I really enjoyed "Coming of Age in Samoa", and "Growing Up in New Guinea". My father fought in New Guinea in WW2, and at one point I read everything I could find about the place.

I found these titles in my library, and started reading them again.

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