To Cherish the Life of the World: The Selected Letters of Margaret Mead

Overview

Often far from home and loved ones, famed anthropologist Margaret Mead was a prolific letterwriter, always honing her writing skills and her ideas. To Cherish the Life of the World presents, for the first time, her personal and professional correspondence, which spanned sixty years. These letters lend insights into Mead's relationships with interconnected circles of family, friends, and colleagues, and reveal her thoughts on the nature of these relationships. In these letters—drawn primarily from her papers at ...

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To Cherish the Life of the World: The Selected Letters of Margaret Mead

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Overview

Often far from home and loved ones, famed anthropologist Margaret Mead was a prolific letterwriter, always honing her writing skills and her ideas. To Cherish the Life of the World presents, for the first time, her personal and professional correspondence, which spanned sixty years. These letters lend insights into Mead's relationships with interconnected circles of family, friends, and colleagues, and reveal her thoughts on the nature of these relationships. In these letters—drawn primarily from her papers at the Library of Congress—Mead ruminates on family, friendships, sexuality, marriage, children, and career. In midlife, at a low point, she wrote to a friend, "What I seem to need most is close, aware human relationships, which somehow reinstate my sense of myself, as no longer living 'in the season of the narrow heart." This collection is structured around these relationships, which were so integral to Mead's perspective on life. With a foreword by her daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson, a renowned author and anthropologist in her own right, this volume of letters from Mead to those who shared her life and work offers new insight into a rich and deeply complex mind.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
I find I can't get up much enthusiasm for rules," cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote in 1933, in a letter addressed to her female lover, Ruth Benedict, about the tension between her then husband, Reo Fortune, and future husband, Gregory Bateson. A free but highly disciplined spirit dedicated to discovering new cultures and practicing the tenets of open love, Mead was also a prolific writer, whose collected letters have been combined into one volume by Caffrey and Francis, respectively an associate professor at the University of Memphis and curator of a Mead exhibit at the Library of Congress. Assembled with the aid of Mary Catherine Bateson, Mead's only daughter, the cultural anthropologist's vivid dispatches have been categorized by recipient. Addressees include her Philadelphia family, all three of her husbands and several lovers, both male and female, on topics ranging from changing colleges to quelling rumors about her numerous affairs. While Mead's personal relationships tend to be the focus, these connections (particularly with her second and third husbands) were closely intertwined with her professional life. But there is little doubt as to Mead's true obsession: as the writer herself noted to Benedict in 1928, "I think the work is so much more important than any personal issue." Photos. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Caffrey (history, Univ. of Memphis; Ruth Benedict: Stranger in This Land) and Francis, curator of an exhibition on Mead at the Library of Congress, rifled through what must have been a great pile of material to make this selection of anthropologist and writer Margaret Mead's personal correspondence, dating from 1919 to 1978. Following a foreword by Mead's daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson, the letters are arranged chronologically within such categories as "Family," "Husbands," "Lovers," "Friends," "Colleagues," and "Kith and Kin," which is confusing, given that many people in Mead's life played two or three of those roles over time. Most of the letters deal with personal relationships (Mead's letters from Samoa to her advisor, Franz Boas, have been published elsewhere). On its own, this collection does not have enough continuity or context to paint a complete portrait of Mead, but it does illuminate some of her intimacies and habits. Recommended for academic libraries and larger public libraries; with a 16-page black-and-white insert. Lisa Klopfer, Eastern Michigan Univ. Lib., Ypsilanti Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465008155
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 7/28/2006
  • Pages: 472
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret Caffrey is an associate professor of history at the University of Memphis and the author of a book about Margaret Mead's mentor, colleague, and lover, entitled Ruth Benedict: Stranger in This Land. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee. Patricia Francis was curator of "Margaret Mead: Human Nature and the Power of Culture," an exhibition at the Library of Congress, in 2002. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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