Women in Psychology

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Prominent Women in American Psychology 'The chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shown by man's attaining to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can woman (Darwin).' Darwin's professional assumption of the intelligence of women greatly exemplified the defining opinion of the day when psychology was in its developmental stages. However, many women went to great lengths to disprove and banish this thought. One such woman was Mary Whiton Calkins. Calkins is perhaps best known for becoming the first woman president of the American Psychological Association, a feat unheard of in her time. Unfortunately, the road to achieving this feat was paved with many obstacles and discriminating persons. Mary Whiton Calkins was born on March 30, 1863. She was born in Buffalo, New York, to Wolcott Calkins, a Presbyterian minister, and was the eldest of five children. The family moved to Newton, Massachusetts, when Mary was seventeen and built a home there that she would live in until her death. Her father was fundamental to Mary's education, designing and supervising her schooling, well aware of the sparse opportunities available to women. In 1882, she was allowed to enter into Smith College with advance standing as a sophomore. Unfortunately, her sister's death in 1883 permanently influenced her thinking and the following year she stayed at home and received private lessons. She reentered Smith in the fall of 1884 as a senior and graduated with a concentration in classics and philosophy. In 1886, her family moved to Europe for sixteen months. Here, she was able to broaden her knowledge of the classics. After returning to Massachusetts, her father arranged for an interview for her with the president of Wellesley College. There, she was a tutor in Greek beginning in the fall of 1887 and remained in that department for three years. Fortunately, a professor in the Philosophy department noted her talent for teaching and convinced her to consider the new field of Psychology. In order for Calkins to be able to teach Psychology, she had to study for at least one year in a Psychology program. However, she faced many problems reaching this goal. First, there were few Psychology departments in existence in 1890. Second, by being a woman, she was highly unlikely to be admitted to one of these programs. She was advised that the best chance she had to succeed was to study abroad. She promptly dismissed this idea and began to look for other options. She seriously considered the University of Michigan, where she would be studying under John Dewey, and Yale, where she would be studying under G.T. Ladd. However, these too were dismissed. She finally settled on Harvard, one of the few universities that boasted a laboratory. Calkins' first introduction was a promising one. She had received a letter from William James and Josiah Royce stating that she could 'sit-in' on their lectures on a strictly informal basis. She contacted the president of Harvard expressing her desire to sit in on these lectures but was rejected on the grounds that 'her presence at these lectures would receive an angry reaction from the governing body at Harvard.' In response, Mary's father petitioned Harvard requesting that his daughter be granted admission to these lectures. The president of Wellesley College also wrote a letter on her behalf stating that she was a member of their faculty and this program was suited to her needs. Harvard finally approved the petition on October 1, 1890. However, it was noted that Miss Calkins was being afforded this privilege and was not entitled to registration and was not a student of the college. Ironically, when she arrived for her first lecture with James in the fall, she was the only person in the class. This fortunate turn allowed her somewhat of a private tutoring session with one of America's most prominent Psychologists. In addition to her lectures with James and Royce, she began studying experimental...
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