Synopses & Reviews
A uniquely revealing biography of two eminent twentieth century American women. Close friends for much of their lives, Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead met at Barnard College in 1922, when Mead was a student, Benedict a teacher. They became sexual partners (though both married), and pioneered in the then male-dominated discipline of anthropology. They championed racial and sexual equality and cultural relativity despite the generally racist, xenophobic, and homophobic tenor of their era. Meads best-selling Coming of Age in Samoa
(1928) and Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies
(1935), and Benedicts Patterns of Culture
and The Chrysanthemum and the Sword
(1946), were landmark studies that ensured the lasting prominence and influence of their authors in the field of anthropology and beyond.
With unprecedented access to the complete archives of the two women—including hundreds of letters opened to scholars in 2001—Lois Banner examines the impact of their difficult childhoods and the relationship between them in the context of their circle of family, friends, husbands, lovers, and colleagues, as well as the calamitous events of their time. She shows how Benedict inadvertently exposed Mead to charges of professional incompetence, discloses the serious errors New Zealand anthropologist Derek Freeman made in his famed attack on Meads research on Samoa, and reveals what happened in New Guinea when Mead and colleagues engaged in a ritual aimed at overturning all gender and sexual boundaries.
In this illuminating and innovative work, Banner has given us the most detailed, balanced, and informative portrait of Mead and Benedict—individually and together—that we have had.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Lois Banner has taught at Rutgers University, Princeton University, the University of Scranton, Hamilton College, the University of Maryland, and George Washington University. She is currently Professor of History and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California and is a past president of the American Studies Association and the Pacific Coast Branch, American Historical Association. Her previous books include American Beauty; In Full Flower: Aging Women, Power, and Sexuality;
and Finding Fran: History and Memory in the Lives of Two Women
. She and her husband live in Santa Monica, California.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
Prologue: The Sybils
Prologue: Rome, 1926
Part I: Ancestry
1 Pioneering Women and Men
Part II: Backgrounds
2 Apollo and Dionysus: Ruth Benedicts Childhood
3 “The Young-Eyed Cherubim”: Margaret Meads Childhood
Part III: Searching for Self
4 “Smashing”: Female Romantic Friendships
5 “Mary Wollstonecraft”: Ruth Benedict and Early Twentieth-Century Feminism
Part IV: From New York City to New Guinea
6 DePauw University, Barnard College, and the Making of Margaret Mead
7 “Unicorns at Sunrise”: Anthropology, Poetry, Gender, and Ruth Benedict
8 Free Love and Samoa
9 Bread and Wine: Creating a Friendship, 1926-1931
Part V: Intellect and Emotions
10 “Two Strings to His Bow”: Ruth Benedict and Patterns of Culture
11 The “Squares” on the Sepik: Sex and Temperament, Part 1
12 From the Hanover Conference to the Witches of Bali: Sex and Temperament, Part 2
13 Race, Gender, and Sexuality
Part VI: World War II and Beyond
14 Ripeness Is All