History Of Psychology: The Role Of Women

Table of Contents

Starting off,

Women in psychology history (essay).

Mary Whiton Calkins

Leta Hollingworth, as she was professionally referred to, was an American psychologist and pioneering researcher.

Mamie Phipps Clark

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

In conclusion

This is an introduction.

Most of the best-known and most respected names in psychology history are men. The majority of students in psychology and the members of psychological society are women. In 1975-2007, 59.3% (or 59.3%) of all doctorate holders were women. But in 2017, only 49% of psychology professors were female. In higher education, men are more likely to find work than women. Moreover, the lack of diversity has perpetuated stereotypes of women being less competent or intelligent, resulting in a negative work environment. While there is evidence to suggest that students benefit from a more diverse faculty, it’s not always the same in most workplaces. This essay’s discussion of notable women in the psychology history can inspire more women to become leaders in psychology, create revolutionary scientific works and make social changes.

Women’s history in psychology (essay). Mary Whiton Calkins. Mary Whiton Calkins (1963) is an outstanding woman of psychology. She created the pairedassociation technique and developed self psychology. The Paired associations technique was invented by Calkins in 1894. This method involves the categorisation, association, and classification of ideas. Calkins attended Harvard as an invited guest in 1892 but was not allowed to enroll as a Harvard student because she was a female. In 1892, Calkins was invited to Harvard as a guest but was not allowed to enroll as a student due her gender. Munsterberg wrote to Harvard recommending that Calkins be awarded a Ph.D. Harvard denied a women’s D degree. Calkins along with 3 other Harvard-educated women were approved as Radcliffe candidates in 1902. Calkins refused the Radcliffe, saying she could not accept it. Harvard is still refusing to grant Calkins the Radcliffe. Calkins’ self-psychology was published in her papers of 1900. Heinz Kohut was the first to establish self psychology. Self-psychology is a study of one’s self, based on self-reflection. Calkins developed it by emphasizing self-reflection and its role in the environment (Calkins, 1900, 1901). Calkins was also a major contributor to women’s psychology. Calkins reviewed Joseph Jastrow’s “A Study of Mental Statistics” in 1896. Participants were asked to write down 100 words. Jastrow described the women’s responses as more repetitive, with less variation, than the men. The male answers were more “useful”, “constructive”, and more “constructive”. Calkins argued that the findings were “futile” and impossible because it is impossible to separate masculine from feminine intellect (Calkins). Mary Whiton Calkins served as the first female president in the American Psychological Association from 1905 to 1979 (Furumoto). Mary Whiton Calkins’s work and representation are important, as they have opened the door for women, not just in psychology, but in all fields, to receive a better education. They have also created opportunities that allow woman to participate in research and higher education.

Leta Stetter-Hollingworth Leta Stetter-Holingworth is a woman who has made a significant contribution to the history and psychology. She was an early feminist who made contributions to the fields of clinical psychology and educational psychology. Her work with gifted children is also well-known. Hollingworth had initially hoped to become a New York teacher, but was not able to do so because she was married. She returned to college and earned a Ph.D. In 1916 she obtained a D.D.E., with a dissertation that investigated the idea that women are incapacitated by menstruation and cannot perform well on the job during that period. Hollingworth tested women every day for three weeks and found there was no correlation with menstruation. (Hollingworth, 1914). This research was a revolution for the woman suffrage movements of the day. The research was conducted to counter ‘The Male Variability Hypothesis. This hypothesis states that men have more variation in their physical, psychological, and intelligence characteristics than women. (Ellis, 1894). Hollingworth concluded that women did not possess more intelligence than men (Hollingsworth), which helped advance the status of women in society. Hollingworth has also made a contribution to the lives of gifted children. During her teaching career, Hollingworth saw how many intelligent students were left alone and not given enough attention. Hollingworth was the pioneer of the gifted education program, offering a stimulating and challenging curriculum to children. She has also written several books about education. One was “Children Above IQ”, a book published in 1942 that contained the first systematic research on children who have IQs exceeding 180.

Mamie Phipps ClarkMamie Phipps Clark born 1917 is the second African American to hold a Ph.D. The university awarded her a Ph.D. She was best known for research she did on child development and psychology, including “The Clark Doll Test”, used in 1954 to demonstrate how segregation hurts children. Clark and her husband Kenneth Bancroft Clark developed The Clark Doll Test where two identical dolls were presented to black children, but one doll was black, the other white. They were then asked questions to determine their preference for the dolls. They were asked a series of questions about their preference between the two dolls e.g. (Clark & Clark, 1940). The Supreme Court later ruled that segregation within educational institutions was unconstitutional. Clark’s opening of the Northside Testing and Consultation Center, Harlem’s first full time mental institution, was one of Clark’s many accomplishments. It improved access and quality to mental health services for children from minority backgrounds. The centre also provided families with psychological services and carried out important research into the treatment and understanding of mental illness (Shafali, 2002). Unfortunately, Clark has had many of her contributions overlooked. Most textbooks mention her only in passing, and credit Kenneth Clark with the majority of her research. Mamie’s work has opened the doors for new research in developmental psychology. Mamie Clark and other psychologists like her have made a positive impact on social equality. It is hoped that her image and work will inspire further research on race psychology to better the lives of marginalised communities in society.

Elisabeth Kubler RossElisabeth Kubler Ross is a Swiss psychiatrist who was born on 1926. Kubler Ross, who graduated in 1957 from Zurich University, moved to America to fulfill her residency requirements. She was shocked by the poor standard of care that patients at Manhattan State Hospital received. During her residency at Manhattan State Hospital, she was appalled by the low standard of treatment the patients received. Kubler Ross, who became an assistant professor at the University of Chicago School of Medicine in 1965, wrote her first novel “On Death and Dying”, (1969), based on interviews with patients and examining the fear of death. The book was instrumental in making the topic of dying a part of medical education. Kubler Ross’ patient interviews led her to identify “The Kubler Ross Model” or better known as the Five Stages of Grief. The stages include anger, denial and depression. Kubler-Ross established the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross hospice in 1977 as part of the work she has done to improve medical practice.

ConclusionIt is important that women are represented in psychology because they can introduce more research and conduct social change in the areas of healthcare, education, and marginalised groups. They also introduce research which challenges myths used to suppress woman and stereotypes harmful to women in the society. The research of women psychologists has also led to many groundbreaking concepts, such as the five stages grief and the paired-association technique. For women to be better represented in society, female psychologists’ contributions should be more prominently taught in school and higher education.


  • zakhart

    Zak Hart is an educational blogger and professor who has been writing about education for over 10 years. He has written for various publications, including The Huffington Post and Edutopia, and has been a guest lecturer at various universities. Zak is the founder and director of the Edutopia Academy, an online education program that provides teachers with resources and lessons to help them improve their teaching skills.

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