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Book reviews for "Lapsley,_Hilary" sorted by average review score:

Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict: The Kinship of Women
Published in Hardcover by Univ. of Massachusetts Press (1999)
Author: Hilary Lapsley
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A Special Friendship and Bond
As a historian of anthropology, I looked forward to reading this book. The relationship between Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead has been subject to much speculation. No scholar has seriously analyzed the impact the relationship had on the two women in question or American anthropology in general. While several biographies are available about Benedict and Mead, none delve deeply into the relationship they shared throughout their lives. Having finished the text in question, I am torn. For, as a historical analysis of Benedict and Mead the text is superficial. The author, Hilary Lapsley, a New Zealand psychologist who teaches women's studies, has a tendency to skate above the surface and does not delve deeply enough into the respective controversies Benedict and Mead became embroiled in during their careers.

This critique however is rather specialized. For the vast majority of readers unfamiliar with the intricacies of the history of American anthropology will be impressed by a sympathetic portrait of two of the most influential women in anthropology to date. The fact that Benedict and Mead were lovers is now well known and their "friendship" is contextualized within women's studies, feminist psychology, and lesbian studies. The author, herself a lesbian, adds great insight into the nature of their relationship for she points out it was not condcuted in isolation. It is her examination of Benedict's and Mead's "friendship cirlces" that I found particularly insightful. By friendship the author is refering to the twentieth century version of what Carol Smith-Rosenberg called "the female world of love and ritual". The author also does not dwell too much on the sexual aspect of their relationship, a trap that might have sold more books but infringed on the dignity of Benedict and Mead.

In short, Lapsley's book is not a biography in any sense but a particularly personal portrait of two women, friends and lovers throughout their lives. As such, she sheds new light on their work and lives for both those interested in the history of anthropology and those with a general interest in Benedict and Mead.

Mead and Benedict: Kinship of Women
I found this book extraordinary good reading. It reviews their lives during childhood and moves thru both Mead's and Benedict's lives until Benedict's death in 1948. The last chapter does provide information about what happened to the leading players in the lives of both women in later years. I found it much easier to read than Howard's book, which is completely different, with lots of stories about Mead but very difficult to follow chronologically. The author's background in psychology is evident and I recommend the book highly.

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