Margaret Mead (1901 – 1978)

Mead was an American cultural anthropologist who believed in expanding he sexual mores that were present in western religious life. She studied the psychosexual development of adolescent children in the South Pacific island of Samoa and asserted that the sexual freedom they enjoyed as youth enabled them to make an easy transition from childhood to adulthood. This was contrary to other psychological theories of the time such as those by Erikson who posited adolescence was a time of ‘storm and stress’. In 1928 Mead published her ethnographic findings in Coming of Age. This publication played a key role in bringing the sexual revolution to the public arena as her thinking on sexual freedom pervaded academic circles.

Whilst her findings on Samoan adolescent promiscuity were later criticized, Mead was influential in challenging sexual repression in America at the time and her work had a direct influence in preparing the ground for and in advancing the sexual revolution.