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.
Read Mapping Science & Reform: The First Generation of Chicago-Trained Female Social Scientists: Part I, here & Part II, here.
Conclusion: reform movement & research discussion
Along with those in the social services, much of the work done by individuals identified in the previous post as employed in academia can also be classified as fitting within the reform movement: Matilde Castro was director of the Phebe Anna Thorne Open-Air Model preparatory school at Bryn Mawr; in Chicago, Sophonisba Preston Breckenridge, with her 1913 entry reporting the official position “Assistant Dean of Women,” at the University, was also heading research for the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy; Edith Abbott is listed in this year as its Associate Director.
Here again we confront the fact that there are significant limitations to, as well as advantages of, sticking exclusively to the alumni directories in our analyses. A priority for this project was to explore the possibilities and test the viability of employing primary sources like the directories in collective biography—and while they allowed for a level of precision, they also left our analysis vulnerable to the vagaries of those editors who originally organized the information. The organizational changes made in the 1919 directory render it a considerably less ‘rich’ source than the previous two. Unlike them, it did not organize alumni by their disciplines, or even include the students’ departments in their listings, but instead simply arranged the entire school alphabetically. This factor prevented us from being able to include a third, post-1913 generation in our prosopographical analysis as we could not ascertain from the directory alone who was a social scientist. It also confounded implicit expectations that the information provided would get better over time as the school became better established.
But even taken together as a set, the arbitrariness of the selected years and content can potentially create a historical picture that is inaccurate or misleading, and the integration of information from other sources is necessary for prosopographical purposes. To illustrate, we know from external sources that Breckinridge and Abbott would go on to spearhead the merger of the School of Civics and Philanthropy with the University to become its School of Social Service Administration (Davis, 1984; Muncy, 1991). While the directories can provide an unparalleled opportunity to track the early careers of this cohort, they function best in conjunction with biographical sources to more thoroughly map out the professional trajectories as they developed over a longer period of time. The Breckinridge-Abbott partnership would become highly influential; it can be fairly stated that the many collaborative endeavours over their extensive careers helped lay the theoretical and methodological foundations for the social work industry as it would come to be practiced (Muncy, 1991). Another, lesser known example of a reform oriented career that develops after our alumni directory timeline is that of Elizabeth Laetitia Moon Conard, who after instructing at Grinnell College at the time of the directories, was proactive in Iowa, forming a women’s voting league, advocating for children in poverty, promoting the progressivist party and eventually running for governor on the socialist ticket (Hyman Alonso, 1997).
Continue reading Mapping Science & Reform: The First Generation of Chicago-Trained Female Social Scientists, Part III