Women in Psychology
Leta Stetter Hollingworth (1886-1939)Leta Hollingworth was an important contributor to the psychology of women, clinical psychology, and educational psychology, particularly education of the gifted. She was among the first to critically examine scientific beliefs about women’s “nature” and women’s social role. For example, she studied cognitive and motor skills throughout the menstrual cycle and showed that there were no debilitating effects, contrary to prevailing medical thought. She also addressed the “variability hypothesis,” the then-popular notion that on any given psychological or physical dimension females, as a sex, varied less from one another than did males. She developed courses on adjustment and adolescence and published The Psychology of the Adolescent (1928) which was a standard text for the next two decades. Gifted Children (1926) and Children Above 180 IQ (1942) are her best known works. She conducted intensive classroom-based research with gifted children. She found, for example, that many gifted children were treated ineptly by adults and subsequently developed adjustment problems. Her work did much to dispel the notion that very bright children were fragile, clumsy, and eccentric. Hollingworth was also a leader in efforts to professionalize clinical psychology.
Magda Arnold (1903-2002)Magda Arnold is one of the founding mothers of contemporary emotion theory. Her pathbreaking work began during the period of American psychology when behaviorism was the dominant paradigm, personality theory was more allied with abnormal psychology than with normal social and cognitive processes, and emotion was generally construed as “activation” that was disruptive of behavior except within a narrow band of “optimal arousal.”
Arnold was drawn to study emotion in the early 1940s because of her interest in personality psychology, and by the 1960s she had become a leader in emotions research in the United States. She is perhaps best known today for Emotion and Personality (1960). In this two-volume work she surveyed the long-neglected field of emotion research. She outlined a theory that would integrate the psychological, neurological, and physiological aspects of affective phenomena so as to position emotion in personality organization.
Carolyn W. Sherif (1922-1982)Carolyn Sherif’s research focused on the self-system, intergroup conflict and cooperation, and social judgment. Her work with Muzafer Sherif represented a collaborative effort in the truest sense. Collaborative projects included Groups in Harmony and Tension (1953), which describes one of best known field studies in psychology, the Robbers Cave experiment, as well as Reference Groups (1964), Attitude and Attitude Change (1965) and others. Their collaboration produced a distinctive approach to social psychology. They rejected the schism between “psychological” and “sociological” social psychology and were interdisciplinary before that term became fashionable.
Carolyn Sherif’s dedication to women’s professional concerns and the need for scientific interest in women’s status came to the forefront in the 1970s. She often recalled the importance of her participation in the first graduate seminar on the psychology of women at Penn State in 1972 as a factor in crystallizing her research and professional commitment to these concerns. She brought an innovative perspective to the psychology of women and gender. For example, she advocated analysis of gender identity from the perspective of the self-system, showing that it offers a broadly based, process oriented conceptualization of gender.
Additional readingsO'Connell, A. N. & Russo, N. F. (1980). Eminent women in psychology: Models of achievement [Special issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly], Volume 5, Number 1.
O'Connell, A. N. & Russo, N. F. (1983). Models of achievement: Reflections of eminent women in psychology. New York: Columbia University Press.
O'Connell, A. N. & Russo, N. F. (1988). Models of achievement: Reflections of eminent women in psychology. Volume 2. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
O'Connell, A. N. & Russo, N. F. (1990). Women in psychology: A bio-bibliographic sourcebook. NY: Greenwood Press.
Scarborough, E., & Furumoto, L. (1987). Untold lives: The first generation of American women psychologists. NY: Columbia University Press.