- Virginia Yans-McLaughlin
Mead, Margaret (16 December 1901–15 November 1978), anthropologist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Edward Sherwood Mead, a University of Pennsylvania economist, and Emily Fogg, a sociologist and social reformer. Mead’s unconventional education provided her with the tools and social attitudes that governed her later career. Before high school, her paternal grandmother, Martha Ramsey Mead, a schoolteacher well versed in progressive educational theory of the day, and her mother, a social scientist, directed her education at home. Young Margaret’s education included collecting data for observation and recording; anything from the structure of leaves to the language patterns and personality differences of her younger siblings could be noted as data. Before Margaret Mead reached her teens, she accompanied her mother on field trips to Hammonton, New Jersey, where Emily Mead was engaged in sociological research among Italian immigrants. The mother—a feminist, suffragist, leader in the cooperative household movement, and staunch opponent of nativist and racist attitudes—made it a point to expose her child to other ethnic groups and to instill in her awareness of and respect for human equality and differences. Margaret Mead’s M.A. thesis in psychology, in which she argued that linguistic and cultural differences explained lower intelligence-test scores of Italian immigrant children, grew from these early training experiences with her mother....