Tag Archives: women

Mapping Science & Reform: The First Generation of Chicago-Trained Female Social Scientists, Part I

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.

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 cohort from U of Chi

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.

Map #1 for blog

Undergraduate Institutions. Click to enlarge.

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Making Visible Embryos

Another visually interesting website that may be of interest to AHP readers: Making Visible Embryos. The site consists of historical images related to human development arranged in eight sections: Unborn, Development, Learning, Evolution, Remodelling, Standards, Monitoring, and Intervention. Though the site covers a variety of related issues, focus is on imaging technologies and the people responsible for making embryos visible.

Thanks to HT student (YorkU) and History & Theory of Psychology Student Network webmaster, Jacy Young, for bringing this one to our attention.

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Menstruation: A Cultural History

In a recent issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 64(1), Rima Apple reviewed Menstruation: A Cultural History. Although she was generally unimpressed with its presentation as a whole, she also notes that there are a few gems.

Much of the historical research has dealt with negative aspects of menstruation: as pollution, as disability, leading to hysteria, and the like. Several essays in this volume show that menstruation was not always conceived in these terms. For example, Hippocratic physicians called menstruation katharsis, translated as “purification.” Previous scholars have taken this to mean that the processes of the female body were pathological and in need for treatment. In Luigi Arata’s interpretation, lack of menstrual flow was the disorder and katharsis must occur to maintain a woman’s health (18). This casts a more positive light on menstruation than normally assumed. Similarly, menstruation is discussed in affirmative terms in Sabine Wilms’  explication of medieval Chinese medicine. Dianne E. Jenett studies the poetry of South India, uncovering connections between menstruation, divinity, and women-focused rituals. In doing so, she too reveals a culture that, unlike the Western world, attributes positive qualities to menstruation. In particular, women’s bodies were considered especially potent in ananku (divine vivifying female power) at menarche, during menstruation, and after childbirth (176).

As an edited volume, this may be a useful source of individual course readings.  For historians of psychology in particular, the chapter by Julie-Marie Strange uses records from nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century British lunatic asylums.  In that context, menstruation was understood to be “a physical illness with implications for mental health.” However, Apple warns that there is no integration between the chapters; lecturers will have to provide this themselves.

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Love for sale in paperback, 1949-present

Harlequin, the world’s largest publisher of “series romance,” is turning 60. Founded in 1949 — when Winnipeg businessman Richard Bonnycastle began issuing paperback reprints of cookbooks, westerns, detective yarns, and love stories — it now ships over 120 titles a month, in 29 languages. With stories ranging from tame to smutty, the publisher’s archive also offers a condensed social history of love and the making thereof.

The first pregnancy storyline arrived in the 1960s. The late ’70s saw a surge of sexual content, partly in response to the 19th-century S&M-fests penned by Rosemary Rogers, a scandalously popular author at rival publisher Avon. Harlequin cover model Fabio, all oiled chest and blond mane, debuted during the excessive 1980s. (The images in which Fabio commandingly clutches an adoring, half-naked woman are iconic examples of what is known in the industry as “the clinch.”) The ’90s saw some retrenchment into recognizably ordinary lives — heroes and heroines were often ranchers, pediatricians and cops in contemporary small-town North America. Increasingly, romances featured blended families, with single moms reconnecting with high school crushes or widowed fathers silently yearning for nurturing nannies. On these covers, the clinch is replaced by the potent hormonal cocktail of a handsome man holding an infant. (CBC.ca Arts)

According to some reports, Harlequin presently sells an average of 4 books every second. The reason? Passion is universal, claims author Shannon Drake.

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Today’s Neuroscience, Tomorrow’s History

Tilli Tansey and Les Iversen recently produced a podcast series on the history of neuroscience, supported by a grant from the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine. The first episode — “Today’s Neuroscience, Tomorrow’s History” — features Dr. Elizabeth Warrington, one of the pioneers of clinical and cognitive neuropsychology in the 1960s and 1970s. The interview is available, in multiple parts, as MP3 or as a written transcript. Videos have also been made available via YouTube.

Warrington was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1986. At the time, however, she was one of only a few women working in the field. Today, the Society for Neuroscience has a special committee devoted to pursuing remedies to address the challenges faced by those who choose to follow in the footsteps of such pioneers.

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Sex Historian profiled in University Affairs

Dr Angus McLarenAngus McLaren has written books about the emergence of the serial killer, medical ethics, abortion, and the history of contraception and eugenics. But it is his most recent works — Sexual Blackmail: A Modern History (Harvard, 2002) and Impotence: A Cultural History (Chicago, 2007) — that led him to be profiled in this month’s issue of University Affairs, 50(3).

“I am always fascinated with the question, why? Why should that custom arise? What function did that form of sympathetic magic serve in society? Why was it believed?” And many times, the questions cannot be answered or understood by us in the modern day without the context of the societal relationships and power structures of the earlier time. “I am always saying the past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.”

It is this approach, and his prodigious publishing record, that led to his winning the prestigious $50,000 Canada Council/Molson Prize. But how did he do it? Continue reading

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BBC’s In Our Time on Historiography

Melvyn BraggIn last week’s episode of In Our Time, Melvyn Bragg hosted a discussion on the history of history.

From ancient epics to medieval hagiographies and modern deconstructions, historians have endlessly chronicled, surveyed and analysed the great many things that keep happening, declaring some of them good and some of them bad.

But the writing of history always illuminates two periods—the one history is written about and the one it is written in. And to look at how the writing of history has changed is to examine the way successive ages have understood their world. In short, there is a history to history.

Unfortunately, the panel focuses on the Ancients for too long and gets bogged down in details unrelated to the larger theme.  But then they skip ahead and discuss feminist history.  Although they miss a bunch of stuff in between, what they do end up talking about is really interesting.

Other freely available episodes from the BBC archives, varying on this theme, include: Continue reading

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Amy Tanner: more than G. Stanley Hall’s assistant

Mike PettitIn a recent issue of History of Psychology, 11(3), Michael Pettit (pictured right) contributed a new chapter to the history of women in psychology.

Amy E. Tanner pursued a series of ventures on the margins of the discipline of psychology from 1895 through the 1910s. As a midwesterner and a woman, she found herself denied opportunities at both research universities and elite women’s colleges, spending the most visible phase of her career as G. Stanley Hall’s assistant at Clark University. A narrative of Tanner’s life furnishes more than a glimpse at the challenges faced by women scholars in the past. As an investigator engaged with the debate over the mental variability of the sexes, an active class passer in the name of social reform, and a spiritualist debunker, her broad interests illuminate how broadly the proper scope of the new psychology could be constituted. Throughout her writing, Tanner offered an embedded, situated account of knowledge production.

AHP has previously posted several notes about the history of women in psychology.  For those interested in this topic specifically, we have created a “tag” that organizes like stories into a single thread: “women.”  (This will automatically update every time a new article is posted with that tag.)  We have also recently added the Division 35 history page, Society for the Psychology of Women Heritage Site, to our links (see the sidebar under “Resources”).

If you have suggestions for additional resources that other readers may find useful, please contribute these thoughts below as a comment. (Click here to do so now.)

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Preparing girls for motherhood, c.1930-1970

Angela DavisIn a recent issue of History of Education, 37(5), Angela Davis examines the post-Depression debates regarding the proper behaviour of mothers and, more specifically, the preparation of young girls to take on that role.

This article investigates how girls were educated about sex, pregnancy and childbirth during the years 1930 to 1970. Based on the results of 92 oral-history interviews with Oxfordshire women, it explores how national debates surrounding sex education influenced what girls in Oxfordshire were taught. In addition, it examines how successful the women themselves thought this education had been in equipping them for maternity and whether they believed women could indeed be educated for motherhood.

The result is a fascinating look at the contexts in which many of the contemporary theories of mothering have emerged. (Related readings are provided below the fold.) Continue reading

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Female Forensic Committal in Ireland, 1910–1948

In a recent issue of Social History of Medicine, 21(2), Brendan D. Kelly reports the findings of his examination of the case records for all women admitted to Dublin’s Central Criminal Lunatic Asylum between 1910 and 1948.

The majority of women were Roman Catholic (85.4 per cent) and had a mean age of 36.4 years. The majority were convicted of a crime (85.7 per cent), of whom 75.0 per cent were convicted of killing, most commonly child-killing. The majority of women detained ‘at the Lord Lieutenant’s Pleasure’ (indefinitely) were convicted of murder (51.7 per cent), assault (20.7 per cent) or infanticide (13.8 per cent); mean duration of detention was 5.6 years. The most common diagnoses were ‘mania’ or ‘delusional insanity’ (38.1 per cent) and ‘melancholia’ (23.8 per cent); 7.1 per cent were considered ‘sane’. Following their detention, 28.1 per cent of women were transferred to district asylums and the remainder were released under various different circumstances. In common with similar studies from other countries, these data demonstrate that the fate of these women was largely determined by a combination of societal, legal and medical circumstances, as evidenced by the socio-economic profile of women admitted and changes in admission patterns following the introduction of the Mental Treatment Act 1945. The role of other factors (such as religion) in determining their fate merits further study.

To help build on Kelly’s findings, a selection of readings on “religion and madness” are provided below the fold. Continue reading

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