Margaret Mead, Samoa, and why Derek Freeman was right all along

It is sometimes claimed (often with gratuitous ad hominem attacks on Freeman) that it is still an open question whether Margaret Mead or Derek Freeman was right about Samoan culture. The material presented and/or referenced below adds up to powerful evidence that Derek Freeman was right all along. In Mothering Matters: The sources of love, and how our culture harms infants, women and society (Cook, P.S., 2011) evidence is presented tracing some of the cultural and human damage that has resulted from policies derived from Boasian cultural relativism. Some chapters and Notes from this book are appended below. 

Other sources drawn on include:  

1.   Appell, George N. (1984). Freeman’s refutation of Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa: The implications for anthropological inquiry. The Eastern Anthropologist 37: 183-214. This neglected review presents a masterly analysis of the high quality of Freeman’s 1983 critique of Mead’s 1928 book, and contrasts it with the quality of Mead’s account. It may now be seen on Dr Appell’s website  

2.   Freeman, D. (1983). Margaret Mead and Samoa (Harvard University Press) was reissued in 1996 as Margaret Mead and the Heretic: The making and unmaking of an anthropological myth, with a new foreword by Derek Freeman. Melbourne: Penguin. This edition was published for the launch of The Heretic, a play by David Williamson. 

3.   Freeman, D. (1999). The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead: A historical analysis of her Samoan research. Boulder, Colo. Westview. It is important to note that, whereas the hardback edition of this book was published earlier in 1999, it was the paperback, published later that same year – and effectively a second edition – that Freeman regarded as the definitive version of this book. Within pages 141–146, the paperback contains two important new paragraphs that total nearly one page of material. These describe Mead’s own 1931 account that corroborated Freeman’s conclusions. This final clinching evidence was not in the 1999 hardback first edition, where p.148 is blank. The publisher used this blank space to accommodate the new material. Apart from this, all the other page numbers remain the same, and nowhere is attention drawn to these highly significant changes. Most libraries are likely to have only the hardback first edition, which lacks this final confirmation from Mead herself. Freeman presented his updated evidence in detail, and defended his argument against critics, in the Forum in Current Anthropology, 2000. A careful reading of this second edition paperback shows clearly the quality of Freeman’s work, and should itself be enough to dispel ad hominem critiques. 

4.   P.S. Cook (1999c). Margaret Mead, Samoa and the sexual revolution—A summary-review of The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead (Freeman, 1999). News Weekly, 2564, 12–14 (part 1) and News Weekly 2565, 17–18 (part 2). Melbourne. This includes Mead’s 1931 story. 

5.   Heimans, F. (1988), Margaret Mead and Samoa. Film (51 minutes), Produced by Cinetel Productions Ltd, Sydney, in association with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and The Discovery Channel. A DVD of this film made by Frank Heimans may be purchased from Cinetel Productions, 15 Fifth Avenue, Cremorne, New South Wales, 2090, Australia, 

Tel 61 2 9953 8071. Price: For personal use only: A$50, plus p&p; for educational and commercial use: A$150, plus p&p. See

  1. 6.  Margaret Mead and Samoa: Post-Production Script – 51 minutes 9 seconds. Available for download here.

7.   A selection of the reviews and awards the film Margaret Mead and Samoa has received and comments from some eminent anthropologists can be read here Margaret Mead and Samoa. Kindly made available by Frank Heimans.

8.   The following extracts from Mothering Matters: The sources of love, and how our culture harms infants, women and society. Peter S. Cook, 2011. Freedom Books, Melbourne, 2011: 

Chapter 9: The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead. Also:   

Note 7:  Mead and Freeman: the systematic neglect of inconvenient truths. 

Note 7A. Presenting six expert comments, verbatim from the script of the documentary film Margaret Mead and Samoa.

Note 7B. Margaret Mead tells of her lies, in a book called All True! 

Note 7C. Mead’s ‘hunches’ that went on to influence feminism. 

Note 7D. Derek Freeman’s health. 

Note 7E. Cultural relativism and women’s rights.

Chapter 9 and the Notes can also be read here Mothering Matters Chapter 9 and are made available here, to support of this discussion, with the kind permission of the publisher.

9.   Some further evidence of the cultural damage that derived from the uncritical adoption of Mead’s story can be traced in Mothering Matters, in: 

Chapter 10: Social sciences detach from biology; 

Chapter 11. Equality feminism – and mothering denied. Here it is shown how three of the major figures of equality feminism retracted their earlier positions, but these unwelcome recantations were ignored by the equality feminist movement.