Margaret Mead PA conservation figure

Margaret Mead

December 16, 1901 - November 15, 1978

You have probably heard the quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” But do you know the woman behind it?

Margaret Mead was born in Doylestown, near Philadelphia. She served as a source of inspiration to women the world over due to her professional achievements in the field of anthropology and child-rearing. And while her roots were grounded in the northeast U.S., she spent considerable time making trips to the South Seas. In 1925, she arrived on the island of Tau in Samoa. She believed that the study of other cultures could “add immeasurably to our knowledge of who we ourselves are.” In 1928, she published her experience of observing adolescent children in the book, Coming of Age in Samoa.

After receiving a PhD. from Columbia University, Margaret worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City from 1926 until 1969. Throughout the years she was president of many organizations, including the World Federation for Mental Health, the Society for Research in General Systems, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. And as if that was not enough, she wrote or edited more than 40 books and 1,000 articles, where she connected anthropology to a variety of topics she called the “unmapped country”, including ethics and overpopulation.

Near the end of her life, Margaret “was something of a national oracle as a social critic of unsurpassed influence and celebrity.” And while she is no longer with us, we all will remember her for her insightful quotes that remain pertinent today: “We need every human gift and cannot afford to neglect any gift because of artificial barriers of sex or race or class or national origin.”