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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Margaret Mead

b. 1901, Philadelphia; d. 1978, New York

Margaret Mead, cultural anthropologist, author, and public figure, worked extensively in the South Seas after studying with Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict as a student at Barnard in New York. Mead’s work focused on culture, rather than biology, as the primary factor influencing an individual’s character. In particular, she studied child development and gender roles, frequently applying the knowledge she gained about cultures abroad to American society. She published more than twenty-three books, including Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), Growing Up in New Guinea (1930), Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935), and Continuities in Cultural Evolution (1964). In addition to her field work and publications, Mead was a curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York from 1926 to 1978. As a noted public figure, Mead devoted herself to such numerous and diverse causes as women’s rights, opposition to nuclear proliferation, race relations, world hunger, and environmental pollution.