Special Issue: Histories of Women, Gender, and Feminism in Psychology

Elizabeth Scarborough

The Summer 2017 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is a special issue devoted to “Histories of Women, Gender, and Feminism in Psychology.” Guest edited by Alexandra Rutherford, the issue both celebrates the intellectual legacy of Elizabeth Scarborough (1935-2015) and marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of Scarborough and Laurel Furumoto’s seminal volume Untold Lives: The First Generation of American Women Psychologists. Full details below.

“‘The difference being a woman made’ Untold Lives in personal and intellectual context,” by Alexandra Rutherford and Katharine Milar. Abstract:

To mark the 30th anniversary of the publication of Scarborough and Furumoto’s classic work Untold Lives, and to honor the intellectual legacy of Elizabeth Scarborough (1935–2015), we introduce this special issue devoted to the histories of women, gender, and feminism in psychology. We provide a short biographical sketch of Elizabeth, highlighting her own marriage-career dilemma, then contextualize the publication of Untold Lives within the historiography on women in psychology at that time. We conclude by discussing intersectionality as an analytic framework for the history of psychology as a way to extend and enrich this historiography.

“‘Making better use of U.S. women’: Psychology, sex roles, and womanpower in post-WWII America,” by Alexandra Rutherford. Abstract:

The relationship between American psychology and gender ideologies in the two decades following World War II was complicated and multivalent. Although many psy-professionals publicly contributed to the cult of domesticity that valorized women’s roles as wives and mothers, other psychologists, many of them women, reimagined traditional sex roles to accommodate and deproblematize the increasing numbers of women at work, especially working mothers. In this article, I excavate and highlight the contributions of several of these psychologists, embedding their efforts in the context of the paradoxical expectations for women that colored the postwar and increasingly Cold War landscape of the United States. By arguing that conflict was inherent in the lives of both women and men, that role conflict (when it did occur) was a cultural, not intrapsychic, phenomenon, and that maternal employment itself was not damaging to children or families, these psychologists connected the work of their first-wave, first-generation forebears with that of the explicitly feminist psychologists who would come after them.

“Balancing life and work by unbending gender: Early American women psychologists’ struggles and contributions,” by Elizabeth Johnston and Ann Johnson. Abstract:

Women’s participation in the work force shifted markedly throughout the twentieth century, from a low of 21 percent in 1900 to 59 percent in 1998. The influx of women into market work, particularly married women with children, put pressure on the ideology of domesticity: an ideal male worker in the outside market married to a woman taking care of children and home (Williams, 2000). Here, we examine some moments in the early-to-mid-twentieth century when female psychologists contested established norms of life-work balance premised on domesticity. In the 1920s, Ethel Puffer Howes, one of the first generation of American women psychologists studied by Scarborough and Furumoto (1987), challenged the waste of women’s higher education represented by the denial of their interests outside of the confines of domesticity with pioneering applied research on communitarian solutions to life-work balance. Prominent second-generation psychologists, such as Leta Hollingworth, Lillian Gilbreth, and Florence Goodenough, sounded notes of dissent in a variety of forums in the interwar period. At mid-century, the exclusion of women psychologists from war work galvanized more organized efforts to address their status and life-work balance. Examination of the ensuing uneasy collaboration between psychologist and library scholar Alice Bryan and the influential male gatekeeper E. G. Boring documents gendered disparities in life-work balance and illuminates how the entrenched ideology of domesticity was sustained. We conclude with Jane Loevinger’s mid-century challenge to domesticity and mother-blaming through her questioning of Boring’s persistent focus on the need for job concentration in professional psychologists and development of a novel research focus on mothering.

“Queer signs: The women of the British projective test movement,” by Katherine Hubbard. Abstract:

As queer history is often hidden, historians must look for “signs” that hint at queer lives and experiences. When psychologists use projective tests, the search for queer signs has historically been more literal, and this was especially true in the homophobic practices of Psychology in the mid-twentieth century. In this paper, I respond to Elizabeth Scarborough’s call for more analytic history about the lesser known women in Psychology’s history. By focusing on British projective research conducted by lesbian psychologist June Hopkins, I shift perspective and consider, not those who were tested (which has been historically more common), but those who did the testing, and position them as potential queer subjects. After briefly outlining why the projective test movement is ripe for such analysis and the kinds of queer signs that were identified using the Rorschach ink blot test in the mid-twentieth century, I then present June Hopkins’ (1969, 1970) research on the “lesbian personality.” This work forms a framework upon which I then consider the lives of Margaret Lowenfeld, Ann Kaldegg, and Effie Lillian Hutton, all of whom were involved in the British projective test movement a generation prior to Hopkins. By adopting Hopkins’ research to frame their lives, I present the possibility of this ambiguous history being distinctly queer.

“‘Very much in love’: The letters of Magda Arnold and Father John Gasson,” by Elissa N. Rodkey. Abstract:

Magda Arnold (1903–2002), best known for her pioneering appraisal theory of emotion, belonged to the second generation of women in psychology who frequently experienced institutional sexism and career barriers. Following her religious conversion, Arnold had to contend with the additional challenge of being an openly Catholic woman in psychology at a time when Catholic academics were stigmatized. This paper announces the discovery of and relies upon a number of previously unknown primary sources on Magda Arnold, including approximately 150 letters exchanged by Arnold and Father John Gasson. This correspondence illuminates both the development of Arnold’s thought and her navigation of the career challenges posed by her conversion. I argue that Gasson’s emotional and intellectual support be considered as resources that helped Arnold succeed despite the discrimination she experienced. Given the romantic content of the correspondence, I also consider Arnold and Gasson in the context of other academic couples in psychology in this period and argue that religious belief ought to be further explored as a potential contributor to the resilience of women in psychology’s history.

Share on Facebook

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young recently completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She earned her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *