Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict: The Kinship of Women

Overview

This book tells the story of the extraordinary friendship between renowned anthropologists Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict. First as mentor and protegee, later as colleagues and lovers, these two remarkable yet temperamentally different women forged a bond that endured for twenty-five years, defying convention as well as easy categorization.. "Drawing on a broad range of sources, including recently released correspondence between Mead and Benedict, Hilary Lapsley reconstructs this complex relationship and ...
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Overview

This book tells the story of the extraordinary friendship between renowned anthropologists Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict. First as mentor and protegee, later as colleagues and lovers, these two remarkable yet temperamentally different women forged a bond that endured for twenty-five years, defying convention as well as easy categorization.. "Drawing on a broad range of sources, including recently released correspondence between Mead and Benedict, Hilary Lapsley reconstructs this complex relationship and situates it in the context of its time. She explores the ways in which Mead's and Benedict's professional work grew out of concerns in their own lives - about sexuality and friendship, identity and difference. Lapsley also shows how Mead and Benedict used their anthropological studies to call attention to the cultural foundations of American life, Benedict seeking to make the world more tolerant of deviance and Mead to liberate the individual from the artificial constraints of gender and race.

Winner of the Judy Grahn Award for Best Book of the Year in Lesbian Non-Fiction.

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Editorial Reviews

Women's Review of Books
Once the two women have met, Lapsley's story becomes a powerful reminder of how friendship and love between women once flourished.
Booknews
Drawing on sources including recently released correspondence between Mead (1901-1978) and Benedict (1887-1948), Lapsley (women's studies and psychology, U. of Waikato, New Zealand) depicts the complex relationship between the two famous anthropologists as mentor and prot<'e>g<'e>e, colleagues, and lovers paralleling their work challenging traditional definitions of gender identity and deviance. Includes b&w photos of each. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
This book offers both respectable fieldwork and a respectful interpretation of a singular relationship between two world- famous anthropologists. Since Margaret Mead's daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson, wrote a memoir of her parents (With a Daughter's Eye, 1984), the lesbian link between Mead and Ruth Benedict has been no secret. Lapsley (Women's Studies/Univ. of Waikato, New Zealand) casts a fresh eye on a complex friendship that lasted 25 years. Mead and Benedict first met in 1922, when Mead was a student at Barnard College and Benedict was a teaching assistant to famed anthropologist Franz Boas. The two women probably became lovers a year or so later, but their love affair deepened into an intellectual and emotional compatibility that survived Mead's three husbands, Benedict's failed marriage and later lesbian commitments, and even a kind of triangle with linguist Edward Safir. Beginning with the duo's early years, Lapsley echos their professional insights by trying to frame their experiences within the culture that formed them. Part of this includes the accepted "romantic attachments" between young women in college prior to marriage and the so-called Boston Marriages of women in womanly careers (social work, teaching) that marked the early 1900s. Lapsley follows Mead to Samoa, New Guinea, and Bali and Benedict in her struggles to establish herself in a chauvinist academic sphere at Columbia/Barnard. Throughout their long history was the need to hide any hints of lesbianism, which, in the climate of the 1920s and even later, would have destroyed careers and reputations. The important question, of course, is, how fundamentally did these lesbian relationships influence theconclusions of their ground-breaking research? Significantly is the answer posed here, at least for Mead. Feminist scholars, anthropologists, and students of that post-WWI era when gender roles were in motion will appreciate this complex tale of two friends who stuck it out. (16 illustrations, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780585319070
  • Publisher: NetLibrary, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/28/1999

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