Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead in Somoa

Margaret Mead by Lotte Jacobi

Margaret Mead, Lotte Jacobi Papers, 1898-2000, MC-58, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Margaret Mead
1901 – 1978

Margaret Mead sexied up anthropology. Yes, she did write about the sexual habits of Somoan teenagers but more importantly her best-selling book Coming of Age in Somoa helped propel cultural anthropology into mass popularity.

Men Loved Margaret

“Men who would chase after anybody’s secretary, or any attractive woman who might wander in, would take one look at Margaret and think, ‘Oh my God, a lady intellectual,” but then as she talked they’d all end up at her knees. The sex appeal of that mind of hers was absolutely captivating.”

This quote from a male colleague of Mead’s comes from Jane Howard’s magnificent biography, Margaret Mead: A Life. Howard tells the story of this brilliant woman with humor and affection.

Margaret was primarily interested in families. She was not particularly good at maintaining her own having married three times and leaving the details of raising her own daughter largely to others. In other words, she behaved like many successful men by putting her career first.

From her tower office at the Museum of Natural History she mentored many, often with a heavy dose of criticism and drama. Her charismatic presence took over every social event she attended and made her a popular guest on late night television.

The Quotable Margaret

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.”

“When you get to be over seventy, you get acclaimed for what you used to be blamed for. Also, people kiss you like you were a baby — not a kiss like a kiss, a kiss like they were running for Congress.”

“I learned the value of hard work by working hard.”

“We won’t have a society if we destroy the environment.”

“What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things.

“One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night.”

“I was wise enough to never grow up while fooling most people into believing I had.”