This is part of a special series of posts on the digital history of psychology from members of the PsyBorgs Lab at York University, in Toronto, Canada. The full series of posts can be found here.
Chicago Philosophy Club, 1896
Amy Eliza Tanner in white blouse and tie, in between rows
There now exists a large and robust historiography on women and American science before 1970 (Rossiter, 1982; Scarborough & Furomoto, 1987). These works focus on the severe constraints faced by women due to sexist social norms, the tension between pure versus applied work, and the question of whether women scientists generated a specifically feminist-conscious science. With important exceptions (e.g. Rosenberg, 1982; Rossiter, 1982), much of this historiography focuses on a single discipline and often one or two notable (and particularly successful) women. For this project, presented at the 2013 conference of Cheiron: The International Society for the History of Behavioral & Social Sciences, we were interested in comparing the careers of female social scientists within and across disciplines. By relying on prosopography rather than biography, we could compare the career patterns of the better known women to their lesser-known peers (Scarborough, 2005; Pettit, 2008). With these interests in mind, a focus on the University of Chicago made a lot of sense. Founded in 1893, the University of Chicago accepted women as doctoral candidates at a time when such opportunities were not available at elite east coast institutions (e.g., Harvard). Moreover, the city of Chicago was the site of Hull House, the country’s most famous female-centered social reform network (Sklar, 1985; Muncy, 1991) whose members had a complicated relationship with the male social scientists at the University, as Mary Jo Deegan has shown (Deegan, 1988). By looking at the doctorates granted to women in the social sciences, we were interested in exploring whether further connections to this world of reform could be found. Finally, Chicago made sense for pragmatic reasons. Three early editions of The Alumni Directory of the University of Chicago, published in 1906, 1913, and 1919 are available online. These volumes include systematically organized and fairly complete information about undergraduate institution and subsequent employment of all graduates. This kind of source is invaluable for collective biography. One of our goals was to test the possibilities and limitations of relying on this kind of source, so individuals who did not provide either a personal or professional address for any given directory have been left out of its respective maps. Our questions are fairly simple: where did these women come from prior to entering Chicago and where did they go upon graduation? Did they all receive their undergraduate education at one of the Seven Sisters schools? Did they ultimately teach at the same kinds of women’s colleges, join reform projects (in Chicago or elsewhere), work in other applied settings, or leave professional life?
Pre 1906 female graduate social sciences at U of Chicago
Post 1906 female graduate social sciences at U of Chicago
The first directory published for the school covers the years up to 1906, with the first female doctor of a social science, Hannah Belle Clark, graduating in 1897. Our cohort, comprised of 38 women over 16 years through 1913, graduated with PhDs from a variety of social science and humanities disciplines including psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, political economy, philosophy, history, education, neurology, sanitary science, and comparative religion. In this first directory, all but one are listed with a combination of two or three disciplinary titles, such as ‘sociology and political economy.’ In the second directory, the majority of listings identify only one department, and after 1910 five out of eight are in psychology. For interpretive clarity, the cohort is split into two generational groups: one for the generation who graduated before the first directory was published (we’ll call them pre-1906) and those who graduated between 1906 and 1913 (we’ll call them post-1906). This division functions rather well for a couple of reasons beyond making the maps easier to read: it splits the total directly in half with 19 graduates in each group, and there do seem to be some differences in career trajectories between them, which will be discussed in the following posts, parts II and III.
Undergraduate Institutions. Click to enlarge.
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