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Eminent Women in the History of Psychology


Just a small selection of the countless women whose achievements in psychology deserved to be recognized.



Margaret Floy Washburn (1871 - 1939)






An eminent psychologist, teacher and researcher, Margaret Floy Washburn completed her graduate training at Cornell University under the supervision of Edward B. Titchener in 1894 and in doing so became the first woman in the United States to be awarded a Ph.D. in Psychology. Renowned for her work on the study of consciousness and the examination of mental processes in animals and humans, Washburn served as president of the American Psychological Association in 1921 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1931.



Naomi Norsworthy (1877 - 1916)






A pioneer in the field of childhood mental testing, Naomi Norsworthy was the first woman to graduate with a Ph.D in psychology at Columbia University. An outstanding teacher and innovative researcher, Naomi Norsworthy died in 1916 aged just 39. Her most influential work, The Psychology of Childhood, was published posthumously by her friend and colleague Mary Theodora Whitley in 1918. That same year a book celebrating the life and work of Naomi Norsworthy was published in which the then Dean of Teachers College, Columbia University, James E. Russell noted that she:




Met every advance more than halfway, and she gave unstintingly of herself to all who sought her aid. This ability to reach out to the other person, to interpret another’s need, and to give sympathetic assistance from a rich store of scholarly attainments was what made her a great teacher.



Lillian Moller Gilbreth (1878 - 1972)






A pioneer in the field of industrial and organizational psychology, Lillian Gilbreth introduced the concept of the time and motion study as a business efficiency and productivity technique. During her remarkable career, Gilbreth became the first female member of the Society of Industrial Engineers and the first woman to receive the Hoover Medal for distinguished public service by an engineer. Gilbreth's legacy was also acknowledged in 1984 when the United States Postal Service issued a stamp in Gilbreth's honor as part of their Great Americans series.




Karen Horney (1885 - 1952)






An eminent psychoanalytic theorist and pioneer within the field of the psychology of women, Karen Horney wrote widely on the androcentric (male centered) nature of orthodox Freudian thinking and psychology in general. In addition to her contribution to feminine psychology, the influence of Horney's innovative and groundbreaking personality theories spread far and wide; for instance, her views on the potential for human growth were followed with great interest by the likes of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. A truly original thinker, Karen Horney's ideas helped inform an eclectic mix of areas within mainstream psychology.



Ruth Winifred Howard (1900 - 1997)






One of the first African American woman to earn a doctorate in psychology, Ruth Winifred Howard enjoyed a very successful research and consulting career within a variety of fields including child development, family counseling, mental health training and nursing education.





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 Alice Bryan (1902 - 1992)






Renowned for unceasing efforts in tackling the marginalization of women in psychology, Alice Bryan founded the National Council of Women Psychologists in 1940 and coauthored a series of influential studies issued under the title, 'Women in American Psychology' between 1944 and 1947. A passionate advocate of mentoring, Bryan stated that:



One of my deepest satisfactions has been the appointment to professional positions of four women who were my students while earning their doctoral degrees.



Anne Anastasi (1908 - 2001)





A hugely influential figure in the field of differential psychology, Anne Anastasi is renowned for her pioneering research into the way traits are influenced by heredity and environment. Anne Anastasi is also famed for her outstanding scholarship, writing a series of classic books including 'Psychological Testing.' First published in 1954 and now in its 7th edition Psychological Testing is heralded by the American Psychological Association (APA) 'as one of the most important psychology texts of the twentieth century.'



In the course of a long and distinguished career, over thirty years of which were spent at Fordham University; Anne Anastasi served as president of the APA in 1972 and received the American Psychological Foundation's gold medal for lifetime achievement in 1984.



Mary Ainsworth (1913 - 1999)






A hugely influential developmental psychologist, mary Ainsworth is best known for her career-long research partnership with John Bowlby and her pioneering work on child developmental psychopathology. Among her many professional honors, Ainsworth received the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions in 1989 and the American Psychological Foundation Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Science of Psychology in 1998, the official citation for which read:



Mary Ainsworth stands out as one of the major figures of the twentieth century in the study of the relations between young children and their care-givers. Her work on the nature and development of human security, her exquisite naturalistic observations of attachment—care-giving interactions, her conceptual analyses of attachment, exploration and self-reliance, and her contributions to methodology of infant assessment are cornerstones of modern attachment theory and research. The patterns of attachment that she identified have proven robust in research across diverse cultures and across the human lifespan. Her contributions to developmental psychology, developmental psychopathology, and ultimately to clinical psychology, as well as her teaching, colleagueship, and grace, are the secure base from which future generations of students can explore.



Dorothea Jameson (1920 - 1998)






Dorothea Jameson conducted pioneering research on the bidirectionality of color perception. In 1972 Jameson received the American Psychological Association (APA) Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, the award citation read:



The research team of Dorothea Jameson and Leo Hurvich has significantly advanced our knowledge of color vision through a broadly based program of conceptually sophisticated and rigorously conducted experiments. Their research has provided basic data which are essential to theory and at the same time provide a quantitative framework for physiological investigations. Their very unusual scholarship, technical skill, untiring motivation, and contagious enthusiasm for scientific discovery have set new standards of excellence against which future experimenters and theorists will be judged.



One of the world's leading authorities on color theory and optics, Jameson was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1975.


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