Psychology has long placed an emphasis on the contributions of male psychologists such as Sigmund Freud, B.F. Skinner, John B. Watson, and other thinkers. Unfortunately, the important contributions of female psychologists are often overlooked in psychology textbooks. There were many women in psychology, however, who made critical contributions and helped shape the development of the field of psychology.
Where Are All the Women in Psychology History?
While studying the early history of psychology, you might find yourself wondering if all the early psychologists were men. The dominance of male thinkers on lists of important pioneers in early psychology certainly makes it seem that way, but the reality is that women have been contributing to psychology since its earliest days. Estimates suggest that in the early 1900s, 1 out of every 10 psychologists in the United States was a woman.
However, many of these pioneering women in psychology faced considerable discrimination, obstacles, and difficulties. Many were not allowed to study with men, were denied degrees they had rightfully earned, or found it difficult to secure academic positions that would allow them to research and publish.
Women have made many important and groundbreaking contributions to the field of psychology, often despite facing considerable discrimination due to their sex. These women deserve to be recognized for their pioneering work. The following are just a few of the women who helped shape psychology.
1. Mary Whiton Calkins
Mary Whiton Calkins studied at Harvard, although she was never given approval for formal admission. She studied with some of the most eminent thinkers of the time including William James and Hugo Munsterberg and completed all of the requirements for a doctorate. Despite this, Harvard refused to grant her a degree on the grounds that she was a woman.
Regardless, Calkins went on to become the first female president of the American Psychological Association. During her career, she wrote over a hundred professional papers on psychology topics, developed the paired-association technique, and became known for her work in the area of self-psychology.
While Harvard may have refused to grant her the degree she rightfully earned, that didn’t stop Calkins from becoming an influential psychologist.