|Birth Day:||June 5, 1887|
|Death Date:||Sep 17, 1948 (age 61)|
As per our current Database, Ruth Benedict died on Sep 17, 1948 (age 61).
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She attended Vassar College before working as a graduate student with Franz Boas at Columbia University.
Benedict was born Ruth Fulton in New York City on June 5, 1887, to Beatrice (Shattuck) and Frederick Fulton. Her mother worked in the city as a school teacher, while her father was a homeopathic doctor and surgeon. Although Mr. Fulton loved his work and research, it eventually led to his premature death, as he acquired an unknown disease during one of his surgeries in 1888. Due to his illness the family moved back to Norwich, New York to the farm of Ruth's maternal grandparents, the Shattucks. A year later he died, ten days after returning from a trip to Trinidad to search for a cure.
After high school, Margery (her sister) and Ruth were able to enter St Margaret's School for Girls, a college preparatory school, with help from a full-time scholarship. The girls were successful in school and entered Vassar College in September 1905 where Ruth thrived in an all-female atmosphere. During this time period stories were circulating that going to college led girls to become childless and never be married. Nevertheless, Ruth explored her interests in college and found writing as her way of expressing herself as an "intellectual radical" as she was sometimes called by her classmates. Author Walter Pater was a large influence on her life during this time as she strove to be like him and live a well-lived life. She graduated with her sister in 1909 with a major in English Literature. Unsure of what to do after college, she received an invitation to go on an all-expense-paid tour around Europe by a wealthy trustee of the college. Accompanied by two girls from California that she'd never met, Katherine Norton and Elizabeth Atsatt, she traveled through France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and England for one year, having the opportunity of various home stays throughout the trip.
In her search for a career, she decided to attend some lectures at the New School for Social Research while looking into the possibility of becoming an educational philosopher. While at the school, she took a class called "Sex in Ethnology" taught by Elsie Clews Parsons. She enjoyed the class and took another anthropology course with Alexander Goldenweiser, a student of noted anthropologist Franz Boas. With Goldenweiser as her teacher, Ruth's love for anthropology steadily grew. As close friend Margaret Mead explained, "Anthropology made the first 'sense' that any ordered approach to life had ever made to Ruth Benedict". After working with Goldenweiser for a year, he sent her to work as a graduate student with Franz Boas at Columbia University in 1921. She developed a close friendship with Boas, who took on a role as a kind of father figure in her life – Benedict lovingly referred to him as "Papa Franz".
Benedict taught her first anthropology course at Barnard college in 1922 and among the students there was Margaret Mead. Benedict was a significant influence on Mead.
Boas gave her graduate credit for the courses that she had completed at the New School for Social Research. Benedict wrote her dissertation "The Concept of the Guardian Spirit in North America", and received the PhD in anthropology in 1923. Benedict also started a friendship with Edward Sapir who encouraged her to continue the study of the relations between individual creativity and cultural patterns. Sapir and Benedict shared an interest in poetry, and read and critiqued each other's work, both submitting to the same publishers and both being rejected. They also were both interested in psychology and the relation between individual personalities and cultural patterns, and in their correspondences, they frequently psychoanalyzed each other. However, Sapir showed little understanding for Benedict's private thoughts and feelings. In particular, his conservative gender ideology jarred with Benedict's struggle for emancipation. While they were very close friends for a while, it was ultimately the differences in worldview and personality that led their friendship to strand.
Boas regarded Benedict as an asset to the anthropology department, and in 1931 he appointed her as Assistant Professor in Anthropology, something impossible until her divorce from Stanley Benedict that same year.
In 1936, she was appointed an associate professor at Columbia University. However, by then, Benedict had already assisted in the training and guidance of several Columbia students of anthropology including Margaret Mead and Ruth Landes.
When Boas retired in 1937, most of his students considered Ruth Benedict to be the obvious choice for the head of the anthropology department. However, the administration of Columbia was not as progressive in its attitude towards female professionals as Boas had been, and the university President Nicholas Murray Butler was eager to curb the influence of the Boasians whom he considered to be political radicals. Instead, Ralph Linton, one of Boas's former students, a World War I veteran and a fierce critic of Benedict's "Culture and Personality" approach, was named head of the department. Benedict was understandably insulted by Linton's appointment and the Columbia department was divided between the two rival figures of Linton and Benedict, both accomplished anthropologists with influential publications, neither of whom ever mentioned the work of the other.
Benedict's war work included a major study, largely completed in 1944, aimed at understanding Japanese culture. Americans found themselves unable to comprehend matters in Japanese culture. For instance, Americans considered it quite natural for American prisoners of war to want their families to know they were alive, and to keep quiet when asked for information about troop movements, etc., while Japanese POWs, apparently, gave information freely and did not try to contact their families. Why was that? Why, too, did Asian peoples neither treat the Japanese as their liberators from Western colonialism, nor accept their own supposedly just place in a hierarchy that had Japanese at the top?
Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict are considered the two most influential and famous anthropologists of their time. One of the reasons why Mead and Benedict got along well was the fact that they both shared a passion for their work and they each felt a sense of pride in the fact that they were successful working women during a time when this was uncommon. They were frequently known to critique each other's work; they entered into a companionship which began through their work, but during its early period, it also had an erotic character. Both Benedict and Mead wanted to dislodge stereotypes about women which were widely believed during their time and show people that working women could also be successful even though working society was seen as a man's world. In her memoir about her parents, With a Daughter's Eye, Margaret Mead's daughter implies that the relationship between Benedict and Mead was partly sexual. In 1946, Benedict received the Achievement Award from the American Association of University Women. After Benedict died of a heart attack in 1948, Mead kept the legacy of Benedict's work going by supervising projects that Benedict would have looked after, and editing and publishing notes from studies that Benedict had collected throughout her life.
Benedict is known not only for her earlier Patterns of Culture but also for her later book The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, the study of the society and culture of Japan that she published in 1946, incorporating results of her war-time research.
Before World War II began, Benedict was giving lectures at the Bryn Mawr College for the Anna Howard Shaw Memorial Lectureship. These lectures were focused around the idea of synergy. Yet, WWII made her focus on other areas of concentration of anthropology and the lectures were never presented in their entirety. After the war was over, she focused on finishing her book The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. Her original notes for the synergy lecture were never found after her death. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1947. She continued her teaching after the war, advancing to the rank of full professor only two months before her death, in New York on September 17, 1948.
A U.S. 46¢ Great Americans series postage stamp in her honor was issued on October 20, 1995. Benedict College in Stony Brook University has been named after her.
In 2005 Ruth Fulton Benedict was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Currently, Ruth Benedict is 133 years, 10 months and 11 days old. Ruth Benedict will celebrate 134th birthday on a Saturday 5th of June 2021.
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