Birth, early family life, and education
Margaret Mead, the first of five children, was born in Philadelphia, but raised in nearby Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Her father, Edward Sherwood Mead, was a professor of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and her mother, Emily (née Fogg) Mead, was a sociologist who studied Italian immigrants. Her sister Katharine (1906–1907) died at the age of nine months. This was a traumatic event for Mead, who had named the girl, and thoughts of her lost sister permeated her daydreams for many years. Her family moved frequently, so her early education was directed by her grandmother until, at age 11, she was enrolled by her family at Buckingham Friends School in Lahaska, Pennsylvania. Her family owned the Longland farm from 1912 to 1926. Born into a family of various religious outlooks, she searched for a form of religion that gave an expression of the faith that she had been formally acquainted with, Christianity. In doing so, she found the rituals of the Episcopal Church to fit the expression of religion she was seeking. Mead studied one year, 1919, at DePauw University, then transferred to Barnard College where she found anthropology mired in "the stupid underbrush of nineteenth century arguments."
Mead earned her bachelor's degree from Barnard in 1923, then began studying with professor Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict at Columbia University, earning her master's degree in 1924. Mead set out in 1925 to do fieldwork in Samoa. In 1926, she joined the American Museum of Natural History, New York City, as assistant curator. She received her PhD from Columbia University in 1929.