Margaret Mead was born in 1901 in Philadelphia. She was the eldest of four children born to two teachers. After high school, she went to DePauw University, where she studied for a year before transferring to Barnard College. At Barnard, she met Ruth Benedict and noted anthropologist Franz Boas, and she soon turned her interest to anthropology.
In 1923, while attending graduate school in anthropology at Columbia University, Margaret married theology student Luther Cressman. Though they wanted children, the two were unable to conceive. After a few years, they divorced and Margaret married New Zealand psychologist Reo Fortune. Margaret also dedicated herself to her work, traveling extensively and in 1928 publishing her first book, Coming of Age in Somoa, which is still in print.
After the publication of her first work, Mead continued to travel and study, publishing several more books, including Growing Up in New Guinea (1930), Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935), and Male and Female (1949). She also pioneered the use of photography in anthropological research. In 1935, she divorced for a second time, marrying Gregory Bateson, with whom she had her only child.
In addition to her books, Margaret published extensive articles, lectured, and worked in the Anthropology department of the American Museum of Natural History. She was also a social activist and feminist, testifying before Congress on social problems on more than one occasion. In her retirement, she gave extensive grants to young anthropologists.
Margaret Mead died in 1978.