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date: 10 April 2020

Lynd, Helen Merrelllocked

(17 March 1896–30 January 1982)
  • Robert C. Bannister


Lynd, Helen Merrell (17 March 1896–30 January 1982), sociologist and social philosopher, was born in LaGrange, Illinois, the daughter of Edward Tracey Merrell and Mabel Waite. After serving briefly as the editor of a small Congregationalist journal, her father moved from one nondescript job to another, while her mother supplemented his meager income by taking in boarders. Raised a strict Congregationalist, Lynd rebelled against her parents’ narrow provincialism, especially concerning sexual behavior. Throughout her later work, a former colleague later commented, Lynd ran a protest against “cautious … Protestant forebears, who interpreted Christianity as a restraint on her vitality.” But Lynd herself also remembered her parent’s opposition to social injustice in their small midwestern town. Their vision of humanity, without regard to race, class, or nation, laid a basis for a holistic vision of human behavior that profoundly shaped her later thought. After the family moved to Framingham, Massachusetts, Lynd attended nearby Wellesley College (B.A. 1919), where she was especially influenced by Mary S. Case, who introduced her to philosophy, particularly Hegel. “Miss Case with my father,” she later reminisced in an interview, “were the great influences in my life.”...

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