…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.