A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 17, 2009
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world”

Margaret Mead (1901-1978) was a well-known anthropologist who received degrees from Barnard College and Columbia University. She’s known today for a quotation she might not have said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

The quotation is in the theme of several of her writings, but the exact quotation hasn’t been found in any of them. The quotation has become popular since 1985, when it was cited (without a source) in books.


Wikipedia: Margaret Mead
Margaret Mead (December 16, 1901, Philadelphia – November 15, 1978, New York City) was an American cultural anthropologist, who was frequently a featured writer and speaker in the mass media throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

She was both a popularizer of the insights of anthropology into modern American and Western culture, and also a respected, if controversial, academic anthropologist. Her reports about the purportedly healthy attitude towards sex in South Pacific and Southeast Asian traditional cultures amply informed the 1960s sexual revolution. Mead was a champion of broadened sexual mores within a context of traditional western religious life.

Wikiquote: Margaret Mead
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
. Margaret Mead: The Making of an American Icon Nancy C. Lutkehaus
. This quotation is found on posters and bumper stickers, and adopted as the motto for hundreds of organizations worldwide.

10 June 1965, Lowell (MA) Sun, “Diplomas Awarded to 35 at Rose Hawthorne HS,” pg. 22, col. 6:
Rev. Gerald L. Bucke, headmaster of Cushing Academy for Boys, Ashburnham, was the commencement speaker.

Rev. Bucke told the graduates that, while a small group cannot change the world, the important thing is to appreciate and live life as it is. He said it is important to “learn, love, laugh, and live.”

Google Books
The Cave and the Mountain:
A study of E. M. Forster

By Wilfred Healey Stone
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press
1966
Pg. 94:
His is the liberal faith that a small group of elect intellectuals, propagandizing on behalf of certain civilized virtues, can change the world.

Google Books
Curing Nuclear Madness:
A new-age prescription for personal action

By Frank G. Sommers and Tana Dineen
London: Methuen
1985
Pg. 158:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
MARGARET MEAD

Google Books
Earth at Omega:
Passage to planetization

By Donald Keys
Boston, MA: Branden Publishing Company
1985
Pg. 79:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
-- Margaret Mead

Google News Archive
21 December 1988, Cherokee County Herald (Centre, AL), “These giraffes can change the world” by Robert Walter, pg. 4A, col. 3:
They are the men and women sociologist Margaret Mead had in mind when she said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Google Books
Margaret Mead: The making of an American icon
By Nancy C. Lutkehaus
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
2008
Pg. 261:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can cahgne the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” There is a huge number of organizations and grassroots causes that use these words of Mead’s as an epigram, from the Cayuga Nation, a Native American group that is fighting to regain land in upstate New York, to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

Although the exact origins of the quote have not been located in any of Mead;s published work (some attribute it to the first Eart Day celebration in 1970, others think it may have first appeared in a newspaper article quoting Mead), the essence of the quote is directly related to the project Mead engaged in for The Wagon and the Star: A Study of American Community Initiative. The community projects analyzed in the book were exactly the type of small group, community0based, local endeavor that the quote refers to.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Thursday, September 17, 2009 • Permalink