…the historical story about the feminist origins and chauvinist appropriation of the midlife crisis points to the relations between the ‘change of life’ and social change. Historians, historical anthropologists and literary scholars have drawn attention to the social, economic and cultural functions of concepts of the life course and their important roles in making and changing social structures.6 Here, I show that the midlife crisis has historical roots in debates about gender roles and work and family values, and the shape these took in the United States in the 1970s. Thus, ‘midlife crisis’ turns from an anthropological constant or platitude and fabrication into a historically, culturally and socially specific concept for negotiating changing gender relations and life patterns. (p. 154)
“‘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.
The May 2017 issue of Sex Roles is a special issue on “The Past, Present, and Future of Masculinity, Femininity and Gender: Honoring Feminist Scholar Sandra L. Bem (1944 – 2014), Part 1.” Details on contributions that may interest AHP readers follow below:
“Sandra Bem: Revolutionary and Generative Feminist Psychologist,” by Emily Keener and Clare Mehta. Abstract:
This introduction to The Past, Present, and Future of Masculinity, Femininity and Gender: Honoring Feminist Scholar Sandra L. Bem (1944–2014), Part 1 briefly highlights Sandra Bem’s career and provides an overview of each paper included in the first of two special issues. In doing so, we highlight how Sandra Bem’s works changed the way scholars understood gender and how much of Bem’s work continues to influence current day scholarship on gender.
In our introduction to this special issue on the histories of feminism, gender, sexuality, and the psy-disciplines, we propose the tripartite framework of “feminism and/in/as psychology” to conceptualize the dynamics of their conjoined trajectories and relationship to gender and sexuality from the late 19th through the late 20th centuries. “Feminism and psychology” highlights the tensions between a political movement and a scientific discipline and the efforts of participants in each to problematize the other. “Feminism in psychology” refers to those historical moments when self-identified feminists intervened in psychology to alter its content, methodologies, and populations. We propose, as have others, that these interventions predate the 1970s, the period most commonly associated with the “founding” of feminist psychology. Finally, “feminism as psychology/psychology as feminism” explores the shared ground between psychology and feminism—the conceptual, methodological, and (more rarely) epistemological moments when psychology and feminism made common cause. We suggest that the traffic between feminism and psychology has been persistent, continuous, and productive, despite taking different historically and geographically contingent forms.
Full titles, authors, and abstracts for articles in this special issue follow below.
In the above video Jill Lepore, Professor of American History at Harvard University and staff writer for the New Yorker, discusses her work on the history of Wonder Woman before Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman was recently released by Random House. (For more on Lepore’s work on Wonder Woman see here.)
Tip o’ the hat to Ben Harris for alerting us to this video.
“The American Psychological Association’s Committee on Women in Psychology: 40 Years of Contributions to the Transformation of Psychology,” by Joan C. Chrisler, Cynthia de las Fuentes, Ramani S. Durvasula, Edna M. Esnil, Maureen C. McHugh, Shari E. Miles-Cohen, Julie L. Williams, and Jennifer P. Wisdom. The abstract reads,
The Committee on Women in Psychology (CWP) of the American Psychological Association was founded in 1973 in response to the report of the Task Force on the Status of Women in Psychology. In this article, we set the context for the founding of the task force and committee and briefly describe the history of feminist critique of, and activism within, organized psychology in the United States. From its inception to the present day, CWP has been known as an activist group. We review some of the major contributions CWP has made over four decades in service of the feminist transformation of psychology. We also review the committee’s major contributions to psychology in the public interest, especially to the physical and mental health and well-being of women.
AHPhas the pleasure of presenting an interview with Alexandra Rutherford (right) on the ongoing online archive project Psychology’s Feminist Voices. Directed by Rutherford, Psychology’s Feminist Voices documents the contributions of female psychologists to the discipline, both past and present.
AHP: Briefly, what is Psychology’s Feminist Voices?
AR: Psychology’s Feminist Voices is an Oral History and On-Line Archive Project that I launched in 2004. Although it started small, it has developed over the past 7 years into a multi-component collaborative initiative to document and preserve the voices and stories of feminist psychologists both for the historical record, and for feminist scholarship, teaching, and advocacy in psychology. To date, we have conducted over 100 interviews with self-identified feminist psychologists across North America and Europe. In 2010, we launched the Psychology’s Feminist Voices multimedia internet archive – http://www.feministvoices.com – at the American Psychological Association (APA) convention in San Diego, California. At that time, the site was officially endorsed by the Society for the Psychology of Women, Division 35 of the APA.
The internet archive features profiles of many of the participants in the oral history project, full transcripts and video excerpts from their interviews, and a 40-minute original documentary about the history of feminist psychology in the United States. And this is only half of it! The other half features profiles of women in the history of psychology who may or may not have identified as feminists, but who nonetheless made important contributions that need to be highlighted in our history. Continue reading Interview: Psychology’s Feminist Voices→
The most recent issue of the Psychology of Women Quarterly (PWQ), includes two articles on the history of feminist psychology. In “Responsible Opposition, Disruptive Voices: Science, Social Change, and the History of Feminist Psychology” Alexandra Rutherford (left), Kelli Vaughn-Blount, and Laura C. Ball explore the complex relationship between psychologists’ positivist scientific ideals and feminist political projects. The other historically minded article in this issue of PWQ, “Feminism and Women Leaders in SPSSI: Social Networks, Ideology, and Generational Change,” explores the lives of female leaders of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. Title, authors, and abstracts follow below.
Feminist psychology began as an avowedly political project with an explicit social change agenda. However, over the last two decades, a number of critics have argued that feminist psychology has become mired in an epistemological impasse where positivist commitments effectively mute its political project, rendering the field acceptable to mainstream psychology yet shorn of its transformative vision. In this article, we explore the complexity of allying positivism with a transformative project using two illustrative examples from feminist psychology’s history. Both Naomi Weisstein, whose work was catalytic in the creation of feminist psychology in the 1970s, and Ethel Tobach, who has consistently fought against sexism, racism, and other forms of injustice as both scientist and citizen, have remained committed to the scientific ideal without losing sight of their political projects. Continue reading History of Feminist Psychology in PWQ→