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Anthropology Extension Report Ruth Benedict Ruth Benedict was an American Anthropologist, and is considered one of the pioneers

s of cultural anthropology. She was one of the first to apply anthropology to advanced societies, and her work and perception of cultures as total constructs of intellectual, religious, and aesthic elements has contributed greatly to cultural anthropology. Ruth Benedict was born Ruth Fulton on June 5th, 1887, in upper New York State. She had an uneasy childhood, due to the fact that her father died suddenly when she was a toddler, leaving a mother who wallowed in sorrow and selfpity to look after two daughters. Ruth grew up to resent her mother, and developed depression and extreme tantrums, which she struggled hard to control. After school, she continued higher education and entered Vassar College, majoring in English Literature. When she exited college in 1909, she met a biochemist called Stanley Benedict, however later on she enrolled in The New School for Social Research, whereupon she spent most of her life researching and studying different cultures on which most of her writings were based. She fell in love with anthropology, and her research assignments on the indigenous Native Americans, gave her the insight that culture was to society as personality is to the individual. She further applied and explored this insight in work with a variety of primitive cultures. But she wanted to better understand the dynamic between individual and society, between who we are as unique individuals and the way our culture tells us we should be, and the kinds of choices that we then make. She wanted to be able to explore and apply that understanding not merely to primitive societies, but also to more complex "modern" societies as well. From then Ruth Benedict began various teaching positions at several universities, where she regularly taught, "Methods", "Kinship", and "Mythology and Folklore". In 1927 she became the President of the American Ethnological Society, and in 1933 she was honoured to become one of the first women to be included in the Biographical Directory of American Men of Science. By 1931 Benedict had published five articles but no full length book. However she had a desire to prove herself and to write something substantial and encompassing. Margaret Mead, her close companion and student, stated that in 1932 Benedict had been influenced to write Patterns of Culture after listening to Alfred Kroeber's lectures on cultural configurations, because she felt that his lectures and contributions to seminars were dry. Benedicts next book was Zuni Mythology which was published a year after Patterns of Culture. In 1939 Benedict took a sabbatical to write a book titled Race: Science and Politics, where she addressed the issues of politics and race. The book had a sharp political message for society to open its eyes and realize that racism exists, and that Nazism was not a unique aberration - persecution and racism had run throughout American history as well. Largely because of her research in this, in 1938 she joined the Bureau for Intercultural Education, which was established to promote cultural diversity throughout the schools of America. In 1941 Benedict was asked to directly contribute to the countries policies by working for the Office of War Information in the Bureau of Overseas Intelligence. Benedict prepared anthropological reports on allied and enemy nations, and her last assignment was to study the Japanese culture; the intent of the project was to provide data that would help officials plan a postwar policy. From this project Benedict wrote her last book, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. The final triumph of her career was in 1946, when the American Anthropological Association elected Benedict as President, which she accepted. Ruth Benedict was a source of encouragement, especially to fellow pioneering anthropologist Margaret Mead, both rebellious female cohorts within male academia. She was a colossal free spirit within her own right, both in her personal life, and in her fearless exploration of other cultures and their value systems. Ruth explored what these other cultures had to tell us about the roles that our own society encourages us to lead, and about the other choices individuals, including women, might possibly make. Overall it was Benedict who, in all her work, emphasized the importance of tolerance, of ending the persecution of other individuals on the basis of "deviance", and worked to instruct her country on how to eliminate the conditions that lead to racism and persecution, ensuring that her name would go down in history as one of the great pioneering woman of cultural anthropology. Marie Poff (12VT)