SEE ALSO: Katherine Graham, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Rachel Carson, Diana Vreeland, Julia Child, Helen Keller, Zora Neale Hurston, Ida Tarbell, Oprah Winfrey, Betty Friedan, Rosa Parks, Cecile Richards, Shirley Chisholm, Jane Addams, Mary McLeod Bethune, Geraldine Ferraro, Bella Abzug, Alice Paul, Betty Ford, Mathilde Krim, Clara Hale, Nancy Brinker, Margaret Sanger, Michelle Obama
1901 – 1979
Coming of Age
Margaret Mead was born in Philadelphia, the daughter of social scientists. After graduating from Barnard College and then getting a PhD from Columbia, her life took an exotic turn. Shortly after her first marriage, Mead set off solo for American Samoa (in the South Pacific), where she conducted an anthropologic study of adolescent girls. The outcome was her 1928 best-selling book, Coming of Age in Samoa. There were other books—and husbands—along the way (she married and divorced three times). Studying gender roles was the predominant theme of her work. Her great love and longest lasting marriage was to Gregory Bateson with whom she had a daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson. Her pediatrician was the young Benjamin Spock. From her ethnological field work, she shared beliefs with him: “breast feeding should be on the baby’s demand rather than a schedule” and she also questioned the effects of nature versus nurture in child rearing.
Not surprisingly, this stirred up controversy. Mead never backed down and, in fact, liked tangling with critics. Interestingly, one cause she never was directly associated with was the American feminist movement. Although she kept her maiden name throughout all three of her marriages, she never felt inclined to align herself with any of the century’s more militant thinkers. Her work and achievements spoke to her belief that women could accomplish whatever they put their minds to.
Emily Dunning Barringer: Clara Barton: Alice Gertrude Bryant and Florence West Duckering: Elizabeth Blackwell: Mary Whiton Calkins: Mary Stuart Fisher: Justina Ford: Alice Hamilton: Grace Murray Hopper: Barbara McClintock: Maria Mitchell: Nettie Stevens: Lucy Hobbs Taylor: Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu: Dr. Tsai-Fan Yu: