The Institute for Intercultural Studies

MARGARET MEAD (1901-1978)

Biography | Bibliography | 2001 Centennial

Statement by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

MRS. CLINTON: Mr. President, I ask for unanimous consent that the following statement, and the excerpt from the Mead Centennial press release, be added to the record in honor of Margaret Mead's 100th birthday:

On December 16th, Margaret Mead would have celebrated her 100th birthday. As one of New York's Senators, I am proud that Margaret Mead called New York home for so many years. New York State has such a rich history of women who have made a difference at home and throughout the world.

As my colleague Senator Chuck Hagel stated so well, Margaret Mead "was an American patriot who dedicated her life to understanding the people and nations of our world. She respected the distinctiveness of various cultures.Margaret Mead took her responsibilities of citizenship seriously by sharing her knowledge with those engaged in public service."

On the occasion of the Margaret Mead centennial, I hope that more of today's youth will be exposed to the lifework of this great woman, and will be inspired to learn about cultures around the world. She devoted her life to studying other cultures, and to encouraging Americans to develop a desire to learn about other cultures.

The following excerpt from a Mead Centennial 2001 press release captures Margaret Mead's accomplishments, and their relevance to our country today.

Happy Birthday, Margaret Mead:
In the 21st Century Her Ideas Ring True

"How to describe Margaret Mead? Physically, she was short and pudgy, walked with a light, firm step, wore a distinctive cape and carried a tall, forked walking stick. As an American icon, anthropologist, futurologist, environmentalist, feminist, curmudgeon, and 'grandmother to the world,' she stood for many different things in people's mind. Above all she stood for the need for Americans to understand other cultures. Since September 11, it has become clear that this is an idea that urgently needs to be reinforced.

As a young scientist, Mead traveled to Samoa, New Guinea, and Bali in the 1920s and '30s to study more 'primitive' societies, wanting to see what she, as an American and a westerner, could learn from cultures that were so different from our own. Mead's theories about adolescence, sexuality, aggression, gender roles, and education opened up new ways of thinking about our own society. In later years, she studied more contemporary cultures, but always with an eye toward learning about how better to understand ourselves and to interact in what was rapidly becoming a multicultural world. Mead's ideas and thoughts are inextricably interwoven in our fabric today, many decades after her first studies of cultures, and nearly a quarter century after her death. While some still attract lively controversy, many of the concepts we take for granted today in any discussion of cultural difference, community, peace, gender, or human rights -- were brought to the forefront by Mead in the '30s, '40s, and '50s.

More than thirty books, dozens of films, and thousands of articles later, her ideas continue to thrive and inspire. Her famous admonition, 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world,' has become the motto of hundreds of community action groups. For the Centennial, more than a dozen of her books have been reissued with new and timely introductions. Many organizations and individuals across this country and around the world are taking time to remember Mead and reacquaint themselves with what she stood for, her work, and its implications for the future. The Institute for Intercultural Studies (IIS), founded by Mead in 1944, continues under the guidance of Mary Catherine Bateson, author, cultural anthropologist and Mead's only child. The Institute's mission, an increasingly important one, is to advance knowledge by creating and funding projects that are likely to affect contemporary intercultural and international relations. The IIS maintains a website,

'If my mother were alive today, I know she would be on-line, using the internet to communicate rapidly, to gather and discuss ideas, to bring people together,' says Bateson. 'It is the continued interchange around her ideas that we hope to foster in commemorating her 100th birthday.' Happy birthday, Margaret Mead -- and let intercultural and international understanding reign in this new century."

MARGARET MEAD: Biography | Bibliography | 2001 Centennial
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Thank you for your interest in the Institute for Intercultural Studies . We encourage you to use this website to connect to the many resources available to answer your inquiry about Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson and their intellectual legacy.  However, The Institute for Intercultural Studies, founded by Margaret Mead in 1944, has closed its doors as of December 31, 2009; no further contact information is available.  For contact about permissions please see the Publishing Permission or Literary Rights section of the website.

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