Margaret Mead: A Biography

Overview

This accessible and informative biography of an acclaimed anthropologist will appeal to anyone with an interest in anthropology.

When Coming of Age in Samoa was published in 1928, the book quickly became a bestseller and brought its author to national prominence—a bright, young, and charismatic anthropologist named Margaret Mead. For the next five decades, Margaret Mead became the public face of anthropology in the United States, her strong ...

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Overview

This accessible and informative biography of an acclaimed anthropologist will appeal to anyone with an interest in anthropology.

When Coming of Age in Samoa was published in 1928, the book quickly became a bestseller and brought its author to national prominence—a bright, young, and charismatic anthropologist named Margaret Mead. For the next five decades, Margaret Mead became the public face of anthropology in the United States, her strong personality and maverick stance on many issues generating both acclaim and controversy.

This succinct, well-researched biography traces Mead’s life and career, from her upbringing in Pennsylvania and her college years under the tutelage of esteemed anthropologist Franz Boaz, through her field work on the islands of Oceania in the South Pacific, to her later career at the American Museum of Natural History. Besides many interesting details of Mead’s career, the author examines her three marriages and her circle of friends, including fellow anthropologist Ruth Benedict and novelist James Baldwin.

The author also presents material not published in other Mead biographies, including information about existing pages of a manuscript Mead said she tore up when atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; her personal and anonymous funding of the American Anthropological Association when it was in financial straits; and her support for anthropologists who worked for the government’s covert operations during the Vietnam War era.

The work concludes with an assessment of Mead’s career, various criticisms and controversies generated by her work, and thoughts on what she would say about today’s cultural landscape.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Anthropologist Margaret Mead is an intriguing subject for biography. Outspoken and opinionated all her life, Mead attained early fame with her best-selling book, Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), and went on to investigate other societies in New Guinea and Bali. She was adept at presenting cultural anthropology to the general public through lectures, articles, and personal appearances, as well as through her books. Unconventional for the times, her private life included three marriages and divorces and an intimate relationship with fellow anthropologist Ruth Benedict. As time went on, Mead espoused many causes related to gender differences, adolescence, personality development, and sexual relationships. In later life she became an icon of anthropology to the public and a target of criticism from her colleagues. The best part of this volume in the "Greenwood Biographies" series is the last, where the author discusses some of these criticisms and explores the question (with material based on a 2001 conference), "What would Margaret Mead say today?" Although the information is fascinating, it is presented, unfortunately, in an inept and pedantic style, ill suited to its intended audience. It would be a hardy student who slogs her way through this awkward and often murky prose when other memoirs and biographies are available. Included are four small black-and-white photographs, a timeline, a glossary, and an index. The color photo on the cover is the book's most vibrant image of Mead, captured in her long blue cloak, holding her pronged shepherd's crook and staring level-eyed at the viewer. 2003, Greenwood, Ages 14 up.
— Barbara L. Talcroft
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616143916
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 5/24/2011
  • Pages: 175
  • Sales rank: 448,141
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Bowman-Kruhm is the author of more than 30 books for children and young adults, including The Leakeys: A Biography, which is also available from Prometheus Books. She is a faculty associate at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education, Center for Technology in Education. More on the author may be found at www.marybk.com.
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Table of Contents

Introduction

Kith and Kin as a Girl in Pennsylvania (1901-1920)

From Indiana to Oceania (1920-1925)

Ta'u, Taro, and Talking Chiefs (1925-1926)

People Are Made, Not Born (1926-1929)

Mid-Career Life Changes (1929-1939)

The War That Divided the World (1939-1953)

A Polymath (1953-1978)

Patterns of People, Career of Controversy

What Would Margaret Mead Say

Today?

Significant Events in Margaret Mead's Life

Glossary

Bibliography

Index

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