Margaret Mead
The Making of an American Icon
Nancy C. Lutkehaus

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"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world."--Margaret Mead

This quotation--found on posters and bumper stickers, and adopted as the motto for hundreds of organizations worldwide--speaks to the global influence and legacy of the American anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-78). In this insightful and revealing book, Nancy Lutkehaus explains how and why Mead became the best-known anthropologist and female public intellectual in twentieth-century America.

Using photographs, films, television appearances, and materials from newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals, Lutkehaus explores the ways in which Mead became an American cultural heroine. Identifying four key images associated with her--the New Woman, the Anthropologist/Adventurer, the Scientist, and the Public Intellectual--Lutkehaus examines the various meanings that different segments of American society assigned to Mead throughout her lengthy career as a public figure. The author shows that Mead came to represent a new set of values and ideas--about women, non-Western peoples, culture, and America's role in the twentieth century--that have significantly transformed society and become generally accepted today. Lutkehaus also considers why there has been no other anthropologist since Mead to become as famous.


Margaret Mead is an engaging look at how one woman's life and accomplishments resonated with the issues that shaped American society and changed her into a celebrity and cultural icon.

Nancy C. Lutkehaus is professor of anthropology at the University of Southern California and a fellow at the Getty Research Institute. She is the author of Zaria's Fire: Engendered Moments in Manam Ethnography. While a student, she worked for several years as an assistant to Margaret Mead at the American Museum of Natural History, and, like Mead, she has done ethnographic research in Papua New Guinea.