Margaret Mead Essay - Critical Essays

Edward Rice


Rice admits that his biography of Mead is somewhat biased in her favor; he emphasizes her greatness while overlooking her faults. Yet her success is what makes her important. Her commitment to her work did much to enlarge and popularize the science of anthropology, and her field studies served as models for future investigators. Long before feminism or women’s liberation became popular causes, Mead lived her life as though being a woman in no way limited what she could accomplish. Rice also notes that he sympathizes with Mead’s second and third husbands, Reo Fortune and Gregory Bateson, both of whom were anthropologists, because he believes that Mead’s immense popularity overshadowed their work and prevented them from receiving much of the credit that they deserved.

Rice concentrates the major portion of his biography on Mead’s professional life rather than on her personal life, though they often overlap. This approach is understandable, however, given that Mead herself was often reluctant to discuss personal matters and frequently skimmed over these topics in her autobiography. Furthermore, her fierce dedication to her work seems to have been detrimental to her personal relationships at times, requiring long separations from husbands and imposing competition between she and her partner—competition that Mead always seemed to win. One of the highlights of Mead’s life was the birth of her daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson, in 1939, but this event...

(The entire section is 521 words.)