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contributed by Lizette Royer Barton

Today is my birthday and I am celebrating with a blog about Mary Brown Parlee (1943-2018).

I was born November 19, 1980 and by that time Parlee was already absolutely crushing it. And by “it” I mean feminist scholarship and groundbreaking research in the psychology of women. If I’m being honest, and I’m 41 today so why not, Parlee’s research is so good and so scholarly, that I have been simultaneously blown away by her work and embarrassed by my lack of scientific understanding. But hey, at 41 I know better than to pretend to understand everything. So, this blog may not do Mary Brown Parlee justice in regard to her absolutely brilliant scholarship, but I hope it inspires someone out there to get to Akron and start a historical research project using this collection because these papers and their creator are incredible. For real.

If you’d like some biographical context before we get rolling head over to Psychology’s Feminist Voices and check out their profile on Mary Brown Parlee. It’s excellent, of course.

There is so much rich material in this collection it was hard to determine what story to tell in this blog post. However, I found myself coming back again and again to a paper Parlee presented in 1997 titled, PMS: A Historical Perspective. Parlee delivered this talk as part of a panel discussion on “Interdisciplinary Thinking on Premenstrual Syndrome” at the 12th conference of The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.

Excerpt from the paper "PMS: A Historical Perspective"
Mary Brown Parlee papers, box M7542, folder “PMS: A Historical Perspective”

My response to the ‘raging hormonal influences’ controversy was both scientific and feminist. From my background in biology and physiological psychology I knew that research wasn’t framed to ask, much less to answer, questions about hormones and performance at work. And as a feminist I was outraged at the idea that biology was going to be used to justify discrimination against women …

The paper is great (the endnotes are amazing!) but what makes it even more fun is that since it’s retrospective, original documents exist throughout the collection that illustrate the story she was telling.

Mary Parlee has the receipts!

In PMS: A Historical Perspective, Parlee writes candidly about receiving rejection letter after rejection letter from top journals regarding the publication of her work on menstruation. She writes, “Each [journal] suggested one of the others until the circle was literally complete….Editorial gatekeeping was one way psychology as a discipline kept women’s menstrual experiences at the margins of the field.”

Letter to Mary Brown Parlee from Ronald B. Kurtz. Kurz rejects Parlee's paper for publication in the American Psychologist and recommends alternative journals.
One of many early rejection letters in the Mary Brown Parlee papers [box M7557]

Nothing would stop this woman though and she wrote, “…my research interests …shifted when I went to New York in 1975 and became immersed in an absolutely wonderful interdisciplinary group of feminist scholars and activists.” Women supporting women. YES! Maybe some of those wonderful women were in the audience at this address Parlee delivered before the New York Academy of Sciences November 15, 1975. I bet our mutual friend Florence Denmark was in the crowd!

Abstract for an address titled "From the Known Into the Unknown: Sexual Politics Becomes Science" by Mary Brown Parlee
Mary Brown Parlee papers, box M7542, folder “Talks, Presentations 1975-1976”

Parlee described her attendance at the first Conference on Menstrual Cycle Research in 1977 as, “…the first conference I had ever been to where there were so many women, smart women, talking seriously about research on a single topic….[and] the organizational power to define women-centered menstrual cycle research became real.”

Flier advertising a conference titled "The Menstrual Cycle: An Interdisciplinary Nursing Research Conference"
Original flier advertising that first conference on the menstrual cycle in 1977.
Mary Brown Parlee papers, box M7545, folder “Feminist and Women’s Studies”

Parlee was invited to talk about her PMS research at a “no strings attached” press breakfast hosted by Glenbrook Pharmaceuticals in 1984 just as they were launching their product, Midol. In PMS: A Historical Perspective she writes, “In retrospect I think this is how drug companies influence a scientific field, not by crassly interfering with an individual scientist’s research or writing but by selectively amplifying one particular perspective in ways that both develop markets for its products and influence the direction of scientific research.”

Preach, Mary!!

First page of a press release on the interaction of cultural beliefs, attitudes and biologically caused psychological changes during the menstrual cycle.
Mary Brown Parlee papers, box M7542, folder “A World View: A Cultural History of Menstruation, 1984”

In the 1980s the American Psychiatric Association was revising the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) and “Late Luteal Phase Dysphoric Disorder” (LLPDD aka PMS/PMDD) was added to the appendix of the DSM-IIIR (1987) with the heading, “proposed diagnostic categories needing further study.” As Parlee remembers in PMS: A Historical Perspective, “PMS had become an “it”, something women “have.” It had become an explanation of experiences rather than a name for them.”

Before the 1980s even ended, the American Psychiatric Association was revising the DSM again and Parlee accepted a position on the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Work Group on the LLPDD diagnosis. As she discusses at length in PMS: A Historical Perspective, the group did a super-mega-ultra literature review and was tasked with providing a recommendation on the basis of empirical evidence whether to keep LLPDD in the appendix, move it to the main DSM-IV, or remove it entirely. The Group presented their findings at the 1992 American Psychiatric Association Convention and in remembering this work Parlee wrote, “Despite the negative findings from the literature review, however it was clear in formal discussions of the Work Group’s report and in behind-the-scenes politiking that placement of the diagnosis in the DSM-IV was still controversial.”

An American Psychiatric Association memo and a handwritten letter from Nada Stotland congratulating Parlee and requesting a copy of her remarks.
Official memo from the American Psychiatric Association regarding the 1992 Work Group presentation and a letter from Nada Stotland to Parlee (1992). Mary Brown Parlee papers, box M7548

But in 1994, there it was, right in the main body of the DSM-IV under “mood disorders” – Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and Mary Parlee had this to say, “It was the most political, unscientific, irrational process I have ever experienced….Whatever the scientific facts about PMS and PMS treatments may turn out to be, it is clear that “scientific evidence” was not the basis for including PDD in the DSM-IV.”

Oh snap!

Isn’t this whole thing fascinating? Don’t you want to know more about who was in the working group, what literature they reviewed, and what they presented to the American Psychiatric Association at the end of the process? The Mary Brown Parlee papers contain a full box and a half worth of materials to answer those very questions (and spur even more!).

A box full of folders from the Mary Brown Parlee papers labeled "Administrative Files" with specific labels relating to the DSM-IV
Mary Brown Parlee papers, box M7548

In closing PMS: A Historical Perspective, Parlee writes, “Our bodies, ourselves? I don’t know. The “our” implies a unified “we,” and that unified subject makes little sense either in feminism or in the history of menstrual cycle research I’ve discussed. I hope its “future history” will…figure out how menstrual research can be used more powerfully in the places where science and society meet, so that science, media, and public discourse reflect not one hegemonic view but the multiplicity of women’s experiences.”

When Mary Brown Parlee presented this paper in June of 1997 at the 12th conference of The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, I was 16 years old and heading into the summer before my junior year of high school. Going through her papers and reading (and re-reading) PMS: A Historical Perspective in 2021 as a 41-year-old I am struck by the line, “…so that science, media, and public discourse reflect not one hegemonic view but the multiplicity of women’s experiences.”

Whew. The more things change the more they really do stay the same. Happy Birthday to me?

 contributed by Tony Pankuch.

Our collections contain a range of unusual artifacts, but one that might surprise you is that we have our very own Ouija Board. Ouija Boards and similar tools have a long history in the field of psychology.

We’d like to share a few fun facts for the Halloween season.

A Ouija board displayed upright in a darkened reading room.
Ouija Board. Artifacts collection, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron.

Most may associate the Ouija Board with the supernatural, but it has been used as a tool for the psychological study of the unconscious mind. In 1957, Frank X. Barron included the Ouija Board in a battery of tests used to study well-known creative writers. Barron’s research notes include detailed descriptions of his subjects’ interactions with the Ouija Board:

Scanned research notes.
Research notes, 1957. Box M5426, Folder 13, Frank X. Barron papers, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron.

[redacted] tried to recall the name of a man who had been a school teacher of his. He was not clear about what grade he had had this teacher in, nor was he able to remember his name, though he could visualize the person quite well. The Ouija board traced the following path:

Q P O 1 P T C Q U V W 9 8

When the table paused over 8, [redacted] with some excitement interrupted to report that something extraordinary had happened. He was aware that the pointer had rested over W and then moved to 8. When it came to 8 he remembered all of a sudden that the teacher whose name he was trying to recall had been his teacher in the 8th grade, and it was at the same moment he remembered that his teacher’s name began with W; was, indeed, Weaver.

Barron wasn’t looking to have his subjects communicate with spirits—rather, he and other psychologists who used the Ouija Board hoped that the words and patterns created by their subjects’ hand movements might reflect their unconscious thoughts, feelings, or desires.

Similar to the Ouija Board, this Spirit Writing Board, donated to the Cummings Center by Hobart-William Smith College, was used by researchers to produce “automatic writing”—writing which allegedly comes from the unconscious thoughts of the writer.

A homemade wood-framed spirit writing board displayed in a darkened reading room. It appears as a felt surface under a glass cover.
Spirit Writing Board. Artifacts collection, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron.

Then there’s the Automatograph. Historian Arthur Blumenthal described the Automatograph as a “scientific-instrument version of the Ouija board.” It doesn’t record writing or messages, but its free moving ball bearings make it ideal for documenting the slightest involuntary movements.

Cover of the Marietta Apparatus Company catalog displayed under a catalog entry for an automatograph.
Marietta Apparatus Company Catalog, undated. Instruments, Apparatus, and Other Manuals and Catalogs, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron.

The automatograph records involuntary movements of the arm. It consists of two horizontal glass plates separated by ball bearings. The lower glass is framed and provided with grips for holding the record paper. The subject’s forearm rests on the paper which moves freely on the ball bearings. The slightest involuntary movement of the subject’s arm is recorded by a stylus which moves with the upper plate. Complete with storage case.

The Automatograph was developed by psychologist Joseph Jastrow in the mid-19th century. Jastrow was an strong opponent of spiritualism, and his Automatograph was designed to debunk spiritualism by documenting a psychological, rather than spiritual, basis for unconscious movements.

So, while the Ouija Board may initially seem disconnected from psychological science, the concept of automatic movement—either by spiritual intervention or unconscious impulse—has fascinated psychologists for well over a century. Thus explaining its place in the Archives of the History of American Psychology.

  • contributed by CCHP student assistant Isabella Pieri with an introduction from reference archivist Lizette R. Barton

INTRODUCTION

The Archives has a lot of material – a lot – in a variety of formats, in different housing, on multiple floors of the building. It can be intimidating. The best way to get to know AHAP is to just spend some time perusing, which is why I like to give my new student assistants a scavenger hunt on their first day on the job. Isabella’s task was to locate 10 different items in the building. I tried to select items from all the different collections. Isabella had no trouble at all cracking my scavenger hunt and she was able to familiarize herself with the building and the collections all while getting a bit lost in the coolness of archives. I think we’re going to get along just fine. – Lizette R. Barton

A SCAVENGER HUNT THROUGH THE CCHP’S ARCHIVES: A FIRST WEEK ADVENTURE

Cultural nuances and histories have held my interest since a young age, stemming from an obsession with the religious beliefs and mythology of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Native American tribes (which are present, today). Entering my fourth year of study as an Anthropology major an perusing a minor in History as well as a certificate in Museum and Archival studies, an opening for a Student Assistant to the Reference Archivist at the CCHP was an opportunity I had to take. To help better acquaint myself with the innerworkings of the institution and the layout of the archives, my first assignment was a scavenger hunt!

I was overwhelmed with how much material I had access to and often found myself getting sidetracked by an interesting title or curious looking box. I really took my time to wander through the stacks, explore each shelf, and familiarize myself with the layout of everything. The CCHP’s archives are home to an incredibly diverse collection, as it’s the world’s largest repository of documents, media, and artifacts pertaining to the history of psychology and other related human sciences. To be totally honest, I did get lost once (or twice), but who’s counting?

Between finding a Kansas State Insane Asylum Report from 1919, a children’s questionnaire about their attitudes, a recipe for a Kaffee Klatsch cake, and letters between a congressman and a psychologist discussing shared interests, I found a curious thread that connected a few of the other items on my list.

What could a book, a collection with a reference to General Mills Inc., and a photograph of a chicken have in common? Animal psychology, apparently (at least in this situation).

One of the items on my docket was a book by the name of The Animal Mind by Margaret Floy Washburn (1917). Washburn upheld the notion that the animal mind could be inferred by observing and recording their behavior and used her own research as well as the experiments of other psychologists and physiologists to support this notion.

Seeing an opportunity in the behavioral principles that were developed by way of these experiments, Animal Behavior Enterprises (ABE) began to train animals for commercial use. General Mills was an avid customer ­- being producers of cereal, granola, and grain – and often used ABE’s animals to advertise their products. Below is a letter from J.L. Coulombe of General Mills’ advertising to Marion Breland, one of the founders of ABE, listing some of the peculiar requests they have for “acts” and “units”, including that of a fortune telling chicken.

Scanned letter from J. L. Coulombe of General Mills, Inc. to Marion Breland requesting the shipment of several chicken "acts"
Animal Behavior Enterprises papers, box M4288, folder 2

For a screen reader compatible version of this document, click here.

There was also a pencil sketch of an idea for a chicken playing baseball act.

Top-down diagram on lined notebook paper of a miniature baseball field arrangement designed to be operable by a chicken. The device includes a bat for the chicken to peck at and a feeder to supply food to the chicken.
Animal Behavior Enterprises papers, box M4288, folder 2

The chicken would complete an action in exchange for a snack, triggering a mechanism to achieve the desired result and entertain the people watching. Below are two photos of a machine that was used in an act that shares a similar function to the drawing.

Two black and white photos. The first is of a chicken standing on the edge of a miniature baseball field display. Tiny figurines of baseball players are arranged on the field, and a large bat is connected to the batter with a lightweight ball positioned in front of it. The second is of a mechanical box with wires connected to make the baseball display work.
Animal Behavior Enterprises papers, box V115, folder 9

Overall, a very interesting and informative first week on the job looking through the archives here at the CCHP. I’m excited to get more assignments and continue become more comfortable working with the archives!

(And hopefully not get lost again).

 contributed by Tony Pankuch.

Browsing the contents of the Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection, one is likely to come across some eyebrow raising titles and headlines from throughout the 20th century. The contents of the collection range from field standard publications like Psychology Today to the long-running Fate magazine, which featured parapsychological phenomena and headlines like “The Severed Head Spoke“. Yet as a queer person interested in the history of psychology and the LGBTQ+ community, the collection provides a fascinating opportunity to explore how LGBTQ+ individuals understood and sought to express their identities in relation to dominant psychological ideologies.

Article headline titled "A Lesbian Speaks Her Mind: An inside account of the feminine side of the female homosexual." Black and white photograph shows a woman placing a hand on another woman's shoulder.
Sexology magazine, Vol. 33, No. 3, October 1966, from the Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection

If you’re familiar with the broad strokes of psychology’s historical relationship to the LGBTQ+ community, you likely know that prior to the 1970s there was little opportunity for the open expression of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities within the mental health fields. As explored by works like Henry L. Minton’s Departing From Deviance and the CCHP’s online exhibit A Clockwork Lavender, LGBTQ+ identities were viewed as disorders to be cured rather than legitimate expressions of human diversity.

Yet in popular sexology magazines, articles featuring the firsthand testimony and perspectives of LGBTQ+ individuals were not altogether uncommon prior to the 1970s. In an era when criminalization, medicalization, and inhumane treatment of LGBTQ+ identity was common in the U.S. and abroad, individuals were able to use the space in magazines to advocate (often anonymously) for their own humanity. An early example of this sort of article appeared in the September, 1934 issue of Sex: Sane Sex Standards:

Article excerpt titled “An Interview with An Invert” by Kemit Riedner. Excerpt text included below.
Sex: Sane Sex Standards, Vol. 4, No. 3, September 1934, from the Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection

After hearing my case, can you safely say that I have committed any crime by acting in a way that to me is normal? If God created us any different from other people. He must have had a purpose in my view, and I think that the inverts of the world will join me in asking that we be given a chance to live as He sees fit to create us. We do not appreciate the efforts His usurpers have spent in improvising on His handiwork.

In this article, author Kemit Riedner interviewed an “intelligent, educated man” who identified himself as an “invert” (a common sexological term for homosexuality at that time). In the excerpt above, the anonymous man challenges the idea that homosexuality is abnormal or worthy of criminal status. The last portion of this excerpt, in particular, seems targeted at those who sought to “cure” LGBTQ+ identities through conversation therapies.

By the 1960s, articles of this nature had begun to appear regularly in Sexology magazine, which was founded in 1933 and paired sensational headlines and occasionally scandalous imagery with educational articles on a wide variety of topics. Take for instance this 1967 article from the pseudonymous “Rod Chase”:

Article excerpt titled "Inner Thoughts of a Homosexual: Autobiographical notes of a young man's experiences with the "straight" world" by Rod Chase. Excerpt text included below.
Sexology magazine, Vol. 33, No. 11, June 1967, from the Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection

I see sad homosexuals in gay bars and the only thing comparable is sad heterosexuals in normal bars. I see many unhappy heterosexuals, many unhappy marriages. Look at the divorce rate! Look at the wretched destructive marriages! But from this I do not conclude that heterosexuality is an illness.

On the other hand, in spite of prejudice, there are many homosexuals who are free human beings and who have capacity for love. They are creative and not sorry for themselves. They are never considered when doctors write about homosexuality.

Sexology provided LGBTQ+ contributors and interview subjects an opportunity to speak out emphatically to an audience that was, by nature of the magazine’s existence, likely to be sympathetic or at least open to the diversity of human sexual experiences. In this way, it followed in the footsteps of early sexology researchers like Havelock Ellis and Richard von Krafft-Ebing. As explained by Henry L. Minton in Departing From Deviance, “for many homosexual research participants, the research process became a proactive vehicle for changing public opinion and constructing more empathic and realistic understandings of homosexuality.” Though this research may have still contributed to pathological understandings of queer identity, research participants were able to exercise agency through their participation and testimony.

Article excerpt titled "Why I became a Lesbian" by "E. N." Excerpt text included below.
Sexology magazine, Vol. 31, No. 8, March 1965, from the Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection

What went ‘wrong’ with me? From my point of view, nothing. When I was 19 and a college student, I met a girl nearly my own age with whom I developed an intense friendship. We were happy only when we were together and miserable when we were apart. As soon as we were able to earn our own livings we went to live together and enjoyed our first serious physical contacts. We have loved one another ever since.

It wasn’t just gay and lesbian writers who wrote to Sexology. Transgender contributors were featured, as in the August 1960 issue:

Article excerpt titled "'Sex Change' Operation: The difficult and costly ordeal of surgery is not an 'open sesame' to happiness for the 'female in a male body.'" by Lana. Photo depicts a transgender woman seated in a long flowing dress. Excerpt text included below.
Sexology magazine, Vol. 27, No. 1, August 1960, from the Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection

Many of us, who feel that we are ‘females in a male body,’ are willing to pay whatever price is necessary. For many like myself, the surgery offers an opportunity to emerge from a world of shadow in which there is no possibility of happiness.

Although we cannot bear children, we are as much female as any man could wish, physically and emotionally. Doctors declare us to be women, and the law allows us to become so legally.

Let us hope that, in time, an understanding public will also sympathetically accept us as such.

Despite the ominous introduction—”surgery is not an ‘open sesame’ to happiness”—the article focused on physical recuperation and societal prejudice rather than any sort of psychological distress associated with trans identity, and Lana described herself as having “absolutely no regrets” for pursuing life as a transgender woman. This open and positive tone toward transgender identity makes sense for Sexology; for decades the magazine’s Board of Medical and Sexological Consultants included Dr. Harry Benjamin, a pioneer in gender-affirming surgery for transgender people, who wrote the introduction to Christine Jorgensen’s autobiography.

I’ll leave you with one more article, contributed by Lorynca Rome, from November, 1950:

Article excerpt titled "I'm Glad I'm a Homosexual!" Excerpt text included below.
Sexology magazine, Vol. 17, No. 4, November 1950, from the Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection

I do not feel as if my mind were ‘sick or diseased.’ I do not feel repressed or frustrated nor emotionally starved, nor that I am any of the terrible things that homosexuals are supposed to be. And yet, things have not always been as perfect in my life as I have longed them to be—perhaps they never will be. But I have no regrets, for I have had some of the happiest of moments—days—years. And I am glad that I was born a homosexual!

Through these articles, LGBTQ+ contributors challenged the dominant narrative that queer life was abnormal and unfulfilling. They expressed themselves as individuals comfortable in their identities and without shame. They were, in a very literal sense, celebrating Pride.

Browse the finding aid to the Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection.

Explore more materials on the history of LGBTQ+ psychology from the Cummings Center.


References

Jorgensen, C. (1967). Christine Jorgensen: personal autobiography. P. S. Eriksson.

Minton, H. L. (2010). Departing from deviance. University of Chicago Press.

contributed by Samantha Hurst, Kent State University graduate student in the Master of Library and Information Science program.

This spring semester, I was fortunate to be able to intern for CCHP. I had the opportunity to work on a variety of digital projects that I was able to contribute to from home. One of these was creating metadata for pieces in the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection. I got to work on the cards in the category “Interesting Messages, Handwriting” which feature cards with handwritten messages on the back that the original collector, Dr. Campbell, found unique. While pouring over these cards and trying to decipher every scrawled cursive letter, I found myself getting lost in their messages, in the wording and other ways in which people chose to express themselves within the confines of a 3×5-inch piece of paper, as well as the imagined meanings in between the lines, the words left unsaid. A few in particular stood out to me:

One card from 1958 carries a message written in a spiral instead of from left to right. The words look like a vortex swirling in on itself, with the text reading “Phil, this is how things have been going the past two days.” The author seems to be alluding to the feeling of being in New York City, which she describes as being nothing like the tranquil scene of Central Park depicted on the front of the card. 

A postcard view of Fifth Ave. hotels from Central Park in New York City. The buildings in the background are reflected in a stream in the foreground. There is also a stone bridge over the water and people walking through the park. The logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the bottom right corner.
Front of a 1958 postcard of New York City from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_002)
Back of a postcard with a handwritten message in blue ink written in a spiral that reads: "Phil, This is the way things have been going the past two days. New York is definitely an unbelievable place - characters like you've never seen. The tranquil scene on the other side is very disillusioning - It Ain't that way!!! Saw Man of La Mancha tonight, GREAT! Take care, Sue." Postcard is stamped as sent from New York on April 16, 1958 and featured a 5 cent US stamp with George Washington's image. Logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the bottom right corner.
Back of 1958 postcard of New York City from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection. Personal address removed (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_002)

One card written in 1978 feels like it was taken from the middle of an argument, with the writer, Sue saying: “It isn’t I don’t have the time. I just don’t think that I have the mental ability to make decisions.” She goes on to talk about her husband falling and hurting his back in the bath tub the day before, but somehow I feel like her husband’s back is the least of Sue’s problems.

A postcard view of a framed painting depicting Roman ruins. The Colosseum is visible in the background of the image and pillars from the Roman Forum are in the foreground. A group of six people in robes appear to be lounging at the base of the pillars. Logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the bottom left corner.
Front of a 1978 postcard of a painting titled “Roman Ruins” by Pannini from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_006)
 Back of a postcard with typed message that reads: "9-11-78 Dear Mary: it isn't I don't have the time. I just don't think that I have the mental ability to make decisions. Al sprained his back getting out of the bath tub yesterday. Spent most or the day with a heating pad on his back. He doesn't seem much better today. Love, Sue." The card is labelled as "Roman Ruins by Pannini (1691-1764) One of the Views at Grand Trianon, Colorado Springs, Colorado Photograph by Orin Sealy, The Denver Post." It is stamped as having been posted from Colorado in September 1978 and featured a 10 cent US stamp with an image of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in DC. Logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the bottom right.
Back of a 1978 postcard of a painting titled “Roman Ruins” by Pannini from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection. Personal address removed (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_006)

Another card, written in 1917, during the height of World War One, is written by a young man to his uncle, telling him that he’s joined the Navy, saying “[I] like it fine. I eat on the ground and do my own washing. It is a new experience.” A synopsis of Navy life during that period that I have to imagine is leaving out some less savory details.

Front of a postcard featuring a sepia toned photograph of a large group of young men in Naval uniforms hanging off the back of a train and waving with their white hats. Caption in the bottom left corner reads "We're off." Logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the top right corner.
Front of a 1917 postcard featuring a group of men heading to war from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection. Personal address removed (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_033)
Back of a postcard with handwritten text that reads: "address Great Lakes T.S. Camp Paul Jones Co 14, Reg 3, Bat. Dear Uncle, Have joined U.S. Navy. Like it fine. I eat on the ground and do my own washing. It is a new experience . There is no question but what will lick the Germans. Densel." The postcard is stamped as having been sent from Illinois on September 14, 1917 and featured a green 1 cent US stamp. The logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the bottom right corner.
Back of a 1917 postcard featuring a group of men heading to war from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_033)

One of my favorite postcards might be the one that I found the most confounding. A card in which the message on the back simply reads “nothing at all to say” signed “PAT.” A message carrying virtually no meaning to anyone other than perhaps Clarence Korn, who received the card in January of 1915.

Front of a postcard featuring a blue and white cartoon of a young boy sitting on the floor and writing a post card. Beside him is a stool, a cat, an ink well, and a candle. Text printed on the card reads: "To owe von's frendt a ledder Doesn't seem Xactly rite, So dis dainty liddle post card I'm sending you tonight." The logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the bottom right corner.
Front of a 1915 cartoon postcard from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_057)
Back of a postcard with handwritten text written sideways on the card that reads "Nothing at all to say PAT." The postcard is stamped as having been mailed on January 16, 1916 and features a green 1 cent US stamp. The logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the bottom right corner.
Back of a 1915 cartoon postcard from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection Personal address removed (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_057)

Written on a simple black and white card, the front image depicting a cartoon of a child writing a post card and a short poem expressing the feeling of wanting to send a postcard to a friend when a letter isn’t necessary. Virtually everything about this postcard feels completely superfluous in a way that genuinely took me aback when I first saw it. Pat seems to have just sent Clarence a postcard about writing a postcard with no other message beyond “here is a postcard.” Was there some secret meaning to this act? Was there a private joke between the two of them? Was this card in response to something Clarence said or did to Pat? It reminded me of the act of sending a friend a random picture with no explanation, or even the now seemingly ancient Facebook “poke” function, designed to get your friend’s attention for no specific reason. All just random acts that say “I may not have anything to say, but I still want you to know I’m here.”

These postcards are so fascinating to me because they are essentially just pieces of paper, designed for advertising more than anything else, but they have the power to contain such heavy sentiment in such a small space. Although the full contexts of all of these messages have been lost to history, the feelings that they evoke are extremely familiar. We often think of people from the past as being very different from us, but if nothing else, the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection can teach us that in some ways, people never seem to change. The way we talk to friends and family can often be humorous or contentious. We often leave out the more painful details in order to spare someone’s feelings, or keep loved ones from worrying. We often don’t have anything particularly important to say, but want to keep in touch with people anyway, just for the sake of it.

contributed by Lizette Royer Barton. For a screen reader compatible pdf of this post and documents contained within, click here.

I asked my colleagues who their favorite women were in our collections. Here are a few of the responses.

Processing Archivist Emily Gainer replied with Erika Fromm. Emily processed the Fromm papers a few years ago and you can review the finding aid for the 115-box collection here: Erika Fromm finding aid. Emily told me, “At one point, she [Erika Fromm] had a student harassing/stalking her.  Campus admin told her if he called, not to answer.  She said she would answer, because that’s what she does – help people.”

Erika Fromm (1909-2003) earned her PhD in experimental psychology in 1933 from the University of Frankfurt while studying with Max Wertheimer (Emily processed those papers too); worked as a research associate in clinical psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, Wilhelmina Gasthuis (University Clinics), Amsterdam; established the first psychology laboratory in a Dutch state hospital; fled the damn Nazi’s; and eventually emigrated to Chicago, IL where she established a private psychotherapy practice and became a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago.

Being a foremost expert on hypnosis and hypnoanalysis, Erika Fromm was approached by psychologists in Germany requesting permission to translate some of her work to German. The Erika Fromm papers contain several folders of correspondence with the journal editors and correspondence she received from readers (both positive and negative) regarding her decision not to allow the translation. Instead, she wrote a paper titled, Personal Feelings of a Nazi Refugee: Why I do not Want to be Honored by Germans, which was published in the German journal Hypnose Und Kognition instead of her translated work on hypnoanalysis. Fromm considered the translation of her work an honor, but was deeply conflicted about receiving such an honor from a German journal. Her paper is hard to read and harder still to fathom what she survived. And while we all hold our own feelings about forgiveness, perhaps sometimes, we have to simply respect when a person just can’t do it.

Erika Fromm papers, box M5199, folder 10

Dr. Cathy Faye, Director of the CCHP, couldn’t give me just one name.

“I’ve always liked Ruth Cruikshank Bussey. Mostly because I liked the photos of her in the collection. I think there were a couple good ones of her from her time in the WAVES and personal journals and scrapbooks. I just remember browsing those and liking her a lot. I’d love to know more about Jewish psychologist Sylvia Scribner….early on, she was quite a union activist, I think. Not sure if the collection reflects any of that.”

Ruth Cruikshank Bussey (1911-2007) earned her BA at Elmira College and went on to earn her MA and PhD from Brown University. During the Second World War she served in the Air Service Command (ASC) and later enlisted with the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), a division of the Navy. She continued her work in psychological testing at the Psychological Corporation. And Cathy was right, the scrapbooks and journals in this collection are incredible. Bussey has letters, report cards, clippings, announcements, and more glued and taped to the pages alongside her handwritten words in scrapbooks and journals from her time in high school well into old age. There are hundreds of treasures but this assignment from her Elmira College course, “Life Work Choice” is among my favorites. The assignment was for students to list their first three choices for work to which Ruth Cruikshank answered, “My work must be with science…I know of its hardships for I have a family none too eager to see me as a woman doctor, stepping in a career belonging only to men.”

Ruth Cruikshank Bussey, box M4963, folder 6

Sylvia Scribner (1923-1991) was the valedictorian of her class at Smith College in 1943 and went to work as the research director for United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. She later returned to school, earning her MA from the City University of New York (CUNY) and a PhD from the New School of Social Research in 1970. She was on the faculty at CUNY, worked as a senior research associate at Rockefeller University, the associate director of the National Institute of Education, and as a senior scientist at the Center for Applied Linguistics. She focused on cultural literacy and learning, worker’s rights, women’s issues in society and the workplace, minority concerns, and labor practices and the more I learned about her, the cooler she became.

Scribner took up a research project at a dairy processing plant to study learning and knowledge through recall between different groups at the dairy – customers, office workers, warehouse workers, and delivery drivers. The collection has detailed interview notes and materials from the study. In her published work from the study, Scribner writes that the observations at the dairy were useful in that they, “…stimulate new ways of thinking about knowledge and practice that avoid the old entrenched dualisms” and “social knowledge is differentiated from, but not opposed to, individual knowledge.” Scribner conducted similar recall research studies in Liberia and concluded, “…recall output tends to reflect the organizational structure subjects impose on material” and regardless of culture, age, or geography these processes seemed to be universal.

Notation on back: 1/15/1977. Sinkor. Hamidu Getaweh and Sylvia
Sylvia Scribner papers, box V81, folder 8

In describing Scribner’s research to Dr. Faye she said to me, “It’s the human and social element. Each place has its own society and its own forms of social knowledge that work for that place and those people.”

Dr. Jodi Kearns, Director of the Institute for Human Science & Culture told me Molly Harrower was her favorite because, “she seems badass.” Also, when asked by T. Kraweic in his oral history series about her philosophy of life, Dr. Kearns told me that Harrower gives the “Best. Answer. Ever.”

Molly Harrower (1906-1999) took some psychology classes while at Beford College, University of London with Beatrice Edgell but never earned a psychology degree. She worked with Charles K. Ogden and with a helpful letter from him, Harrower arrived at Smith College on a fellowship to work with Kurt Koffka. She earned her PhD in 1934 and went on to work with Wilder Penfield at the Montreal Neurological Institute, established a private practice and did work in psycodiagnostics and psychotherapy, consulted in the military, served as Research Director of the Children’s Court of Manhattan, wrote poetry, and eventually joined the faculty at the University of Florida, teaching clinical psychology until her retirement.

The Molly Harrower papers include numerous still images and I asked Dr. Kearns to pick a couple of her favorites.

Molly Harrower papers, box V53

And Dr. Kearns was right. When T. Kraweic asked at the end of an hour long oral history interview her philosophy of life, she laughed and gave the best answer ever. “I practically have no prohibitions….If it isn’t fun, what is it? There are millions of things you can do and doing one you don’t like doesn’t help anybody….If you can harness all your energy and all your enjoyment and all your creativity into some form of action that’s what you should take. And that’s what I try to do.”

Hearing Molly say these words is mostly certainly better than reading them.

So listen here:

Theophile S. Krawiec collection, box A13, tape 40

There are numerous inspiring and important women in the collections here at the Cummings Center. Women who changed the course of the history of the field. But when it comes down to brass tacks, “numerous” isn’t actually very accurate. Of the 466 processed manuscript collections we house, just 81 of them are the personal papers of women. So, who is my favorite woman in the collection? I’m not sure and maybe her papers aren’t here yet.

To twist Molly’s words a bit, “If history isn’t inclusive, what is it?”

Happy Women’s History Month.

 contributed by Tony Pankuch. For a screen reader compatible pdf of this post and documents contained within, click here.

As discussed in the CCHP’s recent video, Robert V. Guthrie and the Search for Psychology’s Hidden Figures, little work had been done prior to the 1970s to seriously spotlight the scientific contributions of Black psychologists in the United States. In the 1950s, Black psychologists remained marginalized in a field that had historically contributed to their societal oppression. Yet circumstances leading up the 1957 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association led to a purposeful effort among APA leadership to solicit the opinions of the organization’s Black members. In doing so, they collected valuable documentary evidence of marginalization in the nation’s top professional psychological organization.

Backing up for a moment, the situation surrounding the 1957 APA Convention began seven years earlier, in 1950, when the APA resolved that its meetings would henceforth be held only in institutions, hotels, and establishments which did not discriminate on the basis of race or religion. Two years later, following instances of racial discrimination during the 1952 Convention in Washington, D.C., the APA passed an additional resolution vowing not to return the convention to Washington “until additional progress has been made towards democratic treatment of minority groups.”

Fast forward to 1954, and the APA’s Council of Representatives had just voted to hold the 1957 Convention in Miami Beach, Florida—a segregated city in an extremely segregated state. APA Executive Secretary Fillmore H. Sanford explained the situation in Miami Beach somewhat optimistically:

(Click each document to enlarge.)

Document 1: See link at beginning of post.
1956, May 4. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron.

Note the phrase, “these are predictions and not actualities.” No one at APA could know exactly what might happen if they were to host an integrated convention in Florida. The events in Washington, D.C. had shown that, despite assurances from hotels and other establishments, racist harassment and violence remained likely in any highly segregated city.

In the years leading up to the convention, votes were held and public comments were solicited from APA members, depicting a wide range of opinions. The arguments in favor of hosting the convention in Miami Beach did not dismiss the racial segregation of the city and state. Rather, proponents believed that hosting an integrated convention in the South would actually help to advance democracy in the region. As argued by Convention Manager Jack A. Kapchan:

Document 2: See link at beginning of post.
1956, May 18. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron.

Kapchan’s letter was circulated among APA membership, and his argument gained the enthusiastic backing of many who cited it in their own comments. Votes were cast indicating strong support for holding the convention in Miami Beach.

Five days after Kapchan wrote his letter, Sanford drafted a written request to be sent to 37 Black psychologists who were APA members. It read:

Document 3: See link at beginning of post.
1956, May 23. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron.

Should APA hold its 1957 meetings in Miami Beach? Would the cause of democracy be served better by going, under the conditions described, or by refusing to go? Would you yourself go to the meeting in Miami Beach? Would you plan to attend the 1957 meetings if they were held, say, in Boston. You can see where answers to these and related questions will be of material assistance to the Board in making a sound decision on this matter.

The responses that Sanford received came from a who’s who of notable Black psychologists, some of whom would later be profiled by Robert V. Guthrie in his landmark book Even the Rat Was White. James A. Bayton, for instance, characterized a Miami Beach convention as “a mighty big risk”:

Document 4: See link at beginning of post.
1956, June 18. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron. Photo from the Robert V. Guthrie papers, Box V59, Folder 2.

Herman G. Canady, who notably studied racial bias in IQ testing, offered a longer response, holding the APA accountable to its 1950 and 1952 resolutions and placing the situation within a larger social and historical context:

Document 5: See link at beginning of post.
1956, June 18. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron. Photo from the Robert V. Guthrie papers, Box M3533, Folder 4.

Like Canady, Roger K. Williams offered an important justification for his refusal to attend a Miami Beach convention: the danger of interstate travel.

Document 6: See link at beginning of post.
1956, June 23. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron. Photo from the Robert V. Guthrie papers, Box M3533, Folder 4.

Williams’s point is an important one. To reach Miami Beach by driving, members would have to pass through the heart of the Deep South, states like Alabama and Georgia where white supremacy, segregation, and anti-Black violence were legally enshrined. This was the era of The Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide which identified the all-too-rare hotels, restaurants, and other businesses where African Americans could safely stop during their travels cross-country. Even with the Green Book in hand, Black travelers still put themselves in immense danger travelling through unknown towns and cities in the Deep South.

Not all respondents to Sanford’s letter were opposed to a Miami Beach convention, however. Martin D. Jenkins supported the location, so long as the APA held true to the principles of its 1950 and 1952 resolutions:

Document 7: See link at beginning of post.
1956, June 20. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron. Photo from the Robert V. Guthrie papers, Box M3533, Folder 4

Howard E. Wright agreed with Kapchan’s letter in his response, citing a Miami Beach convention as a “desirable social strategy”:

Document 8: See link at beginning of post.
1956, June 18. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron. Photo from the Robert V. Guthrie papers, Box M3533, Folder 4.

Yet perhaps the most stirring response to this matter came from Mary A. Morton:

Document 9: See link at beginning of post.
1956, July 2. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron. Photo from the Robert V. Guthrie papers, Box M3533, Folder 4.

You state in your letter that “The issues are almost paralyzing in their complexity.” For me, as an individual, the issues are simple: (1) Will Mary Morton feel secure in joining in any and all proposals for joint activity or will she have to wonder if the particular place involved will welcome her along with all others in the group? … If she is going to have to be concerned about things like these, she stays at home. … Conventions should be intellectually stimulating but they should also be relatively carefree.

… Miami Beach may really become an oasis in a desolate region for purposes of the 1957 meeting, but my acute awareness of how desolate is the region would prevent my enjoying any sojourn into the oasis. Local newspapers and radios would certainly be constant reminders that I was in hostile territory.

In her response, Morton clearly addressed the privilege of both Sanford and the APA’s Council of Representatives. They could easily distance themselves from the dangers of a segregated city, focusing largely upon high-minded principles and potential ideological victories. For Black psychologists like Morton, attending a Miami Beach convention meant putting themselves in “hostile territory,” risking their safety and the safety of their loved ones for the sake of a convention that could just as easily be held in a Northern city.

In June of 1956, a committee of four was assigned to visit Miami Beach to gather further information. Stuart W. Cook represented APA’s Board of Directors and chaired the committee, and was joined by psychologists Robert Kleemeier, Arthur Combs, and S. O. Roberts. Roberts had already voiced his opposition to a Miami Beach convention in no uncertain terms:

Document 10: See link at beginning of post.
1956, May 31. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron. Photo from the Robert V. Guthrie papers, Box M3533, Folder 4.

The committee carried out a review of dining facilities, hotels, recreational facilities, and transportation. They met with representatives from other organizations, including the American Library Association, who hosted integrated meetings in Miami Beach. In his final report, approved by the rest of the committee, Cook testified that the group encountered no instance of discriminatory behavior. Yet the group could not eliminate all possibility of discrimination, nor could they deny that many Black attendees would feel uncomfortable staying in Miami Beach due to the culture of the South. Cook concluded:

Document 11: See link at beginning of post.
1956, July 3. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron.

The 1957 Annual Convention of the APA was held in New York City from August 30th to September 5th. The convention would not be held in Miami Beach until 1970, six years after the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally prohibited discrimination on the basis of race.

The prolonged nature of this controversy and the responses of Black members of the APA highlight the tangible ways that marginalization can occur in psychology and other professional fields. In pushing for a Miami Beach convention as part of a “social strategy,” supporters of the location were not entirely misguided. All major civil rights movements in the United States have required their participants to assume some risk of personal harm. Yet it was largely white psychologists who concocted this social strategy, not the Black men and women who were asked to put themselves in harm’s way. Further, most of those Black psychologists were not seeking to take part in an act of defiance against Southern racism—rather, they were simply trying to participate in their professional community and attend a conference for the benefit of their careers and their field.

Had the 1957 APA Conference been held in Miami Beach, Black psychologists who rightly feared for their safety in the South would have been denied access to the largest psychological conference in the United States. The comments of these psychologists helped push the APA to remain true to the principles of racial equality and integration, yet the resolutions of 1950 and 1952 should have invalidated this controversy from the beginning. Circumstances such as these were far from the only systematic barriers faced by Black psychologists in the mid-20th century, but they clearly illustrate how well-meaning policies and resolutions could, and still do, overlook the complexities of racial injustice.


Additional materials on the 1957 APA Convention are available for research in the Stuart Cook papers at the Archives of the History of American Psychology at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology. To request additional materials from these papers, please contact ahap@uakron.edu.

A Boring Mentorship Blog

~ contributed by Jodi Kearns.

In the early 1950s, Lauren G. Wispé set out to study social and psychological factors associated with eminence in the field of psychology by analyzing selected psychologists’ responses to a 12-page questionnaire asking about family, early education, and socioeconomic backgrounds. If you want to read Wispé’s results, have a look at Traits of Eminent American Psychologists published in Science in 1963.

The Cummings Center has a small collection of the returned questionnaires, which have some coding marks from the data analysis, and no additional research materials. In a previous blog, we pulled excerpts from the Wispé survey question, Have there been any handicaps or factors which have interferred [sic] with your career?

Some other questions ask about parents’ ages at the psychologist’s birth, parents’ professions, and family members’ achieved levels of education. Questions cover work experience, mentors and influences, promising students, and prominent research and publications. The collection is a trove of eminent psychologist autobiography and self-awareness.

For National Mentoring Month, these excerpts focus on survey questions about leaders on faculties, field influences, and outstanding students.

Abraham Maslow, for example, wrote Harry Harlow in several places in his responses to questions about faculty leaders when he was a grad student.

Abraham Maslow’s responses to: Name of man (men) who supervised your dissertation
Abraham Maslow’s responses to: Name some of the outstanding Leaders on the faculty while you were [in graduate school]
Abraham Maslow’s responses to: As a student I was stimulated by

Though, Harry Harlow did not name Maslow as one of his outstanding students. Ope.

Harry Harlow’s responses to: Names of outstanding students who have worked with you

To add another branch to this genealogy of academic mentorship, Walter Miles lists Harry Harlow as an outstanding student, making Miles Maslow’s academic grandparent.

Walter Miles’ responses to: Name of outstanding students who have worked for you

Gordon Allport couldn’t wrap his head around the limitations of the survey and just could not bring himself to write down his influences because there were too many variables.

Gordon Allport’s response to: As a student I was most stimulated by

And Frank Beach hadn’t had any outstanding students in his first five years of practice.

Frank Beach’s response to: Names of outstanding students who have worked with you

Max Wertheimer‘s list of outstanding students looks like a Who’s Who of CCHP content.

Max Wertheimer’s responses to: Names of outstanding students who have worked with you
Köhler, Koffka, Duncker, Arnheim, Asch, Luchins

There are more than a hundred survey responses listing influences, mentors, and promising students in this collection, and my personal favorite is pulled from E. G. Boring‘s questionnaire responses.

Who chaired Boring’s dissertation? E. B. Titchener.

Who were the leaders on faculty at Boring’s grad program at Cornell? E. B. Titchener et al.

Who stimulated Boring’s thinking and academics? You guessed it.

What other facilities besides the library and the psychology labs were conducive to Boring’s research and study? The personality of E. B. Titchener.

To close the questionnaire, respondents were asked to break down habits and traits of their faculty leaders on a scale, where we learn that Titchener was not noted for his cooperativeness nor did he appreciate a good joke on himself.

Boring closes the checklist with a footnote, in much the same way he footnotes many of his responses to this questionnaire. And I’ll close with this transcription of E. G. Boring’s checklist summary where he compares his academic influencer to Jehovah and describes feeling relief upon his death. Oof.

“Whew! Good Lord! To reduce EBTitchener to check marks! How insulted he would have been, he who regarded any questionnaire as an insult and invasion of his privacy!

Checking col.1 is humorous, because so many of the checks are understatements. Was Titchener self-assured? Was Jehovah? Did he make others enthusiastic? Would he tolerate anyone under him being less that [sic] maniacally enthsuastic [sic]?

Titchener dominated us all, yet I could not answer items 26-27 [edit], p.3. His insistence on the correctness of his knowledge as to the proper conduct of the details of the lives of his graduate students and the fact that he was so seldom demonstrably wrong created ambivalent responses. More of his good students broke bitterly with him than remained loyal. I remained loyal, yet held my dissents rigidly, insisting on doing many professional things of which Titchener disapproved. You could say he was my chief stimulator, yet his death left me with a great sense of freedom (like John Mill when James Mill died in 1837) and all my effective productive productivity has been since this release came to me.”

And a shout out to my mentor, Dr. Brian C. O’Connor, who sealed my academic fate the day he dropped a copy of his mentor’s book on my desk in grad school, Patrick Wilson‘s Public Knowledge Private Ignorance.

Know Thyself

~ contributed by Nicole Orchosky based on her Capstone project for completion of the Museums & Archives Studies certificate. Know Thyself serves as an intro to an online exhibition Nicole has also prepared.

Toward the end of the 1700s, a young Franz Joseph Gall sat in a schoolroom and glanced around at his fellow classmates. Gall caught on to a trend that fascinated him–he noticed that the students with excellent memorization skills often had prominent eyes and large foreheads. This discovery led Gall to hypothesize that the physical structure of one’s head may correspond to one’s personality traits in consistent and predictable ways. As Gall grew older he began to lecture on the subject, he expanded his theory into the science of phrenology, which quickly gained traction in Europe before spreading overseas to America by way of Gall’s own student Johann Kaspar Spurzheim [1]. 

Franz Joseph Gall, credited as the creator of phrenology.
Image credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Smithsonian Institution. “Smithsonian Learning Lab Resource: Franz Joseph Gall 1758-1828).” Smithsonian Learning Lab, Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, 25 Nov. 2016.

Phrenology, now considered pseudoscience, was widely popular in the 19th century among the general public as a way to make sense of human behavior. Middle class Americans were drawn to phrenology as one may be drawn to the predictions of astrological horoscope. They took comfort in the notion that something as unpredictable and subjective as the human psyche could now be quantified by a series of cranial measurements. The skull was divided into regions called “organs,” and the physical measurement of an organ would determine if you exhibited more or less of the personality trait corresponding to that organ. Gall theorized that the more developed the trait, the larger the organ, and the larger a protrusion it formed in the skull [1].

Phrenological bust from Fowler and Wells’ Phrenological Cabinet showing the “organs” of the brain and labelled with corresponding characteristics. Visit the National Museum of Psychology to see a phrenological bust up close.
Image credit: National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. “Smithsonian Learning Lab Resource: Phrenology, By L. N. Fowler.” Smithsonian Learning Lab. 29 Jan. 2020. Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access. 06 Dec. 2020.

As soon as brothers Orson and Lorenzo Fowler learned of the theory from visiting lecturer Spurzheim, they turned Phrenology into their life’s passion and joined with fellow phrenological enthusiast Samuel R. Wells to establish America’s most prominent phrenological hub, The Phrenological Cabinet in New York City [2]. The storefront functioned as a museum, medical office, and publishing house all in one. Busts, both real and replica skulls, and phrenological diagrams and literature were displayed and sold here. Anyone could walk in and have their own skull measured and examined to gain a better sense of self as well as discover ways in which they could correct their negative behaviors. Magazines like The Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated were published and distributed here, including writings by the Fowlers themselves, who spent much of their time lecturing about their theories all over the country.

Samuel R. Wells, Charlotte Fowler Wells, and Lorenzo N. Fowler stand in the doorway of S.R. Wells & Co., The Phrenological Cabinet, with two other men.
Image credit: Fowler and Wells families papers, #97. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

While the Fowlers gallivanted around America on lengthy lecture tours, who was left to take care of the family business? Samuel R. Wells oversaw the publishing side of The Phrenological Cabinet, but it was primarily the three men’s wives who took on the managerial and sometimes medical responsibilities within the office. Phrenology allowed women a sense of autonomy by allowing them a better understanding of their own mind and body, and for many women phrenology was a socially acceptable entry point to begin to seek out scientific knowledge.  Abigail Fowler-Chumos, wife of Orson Fowler, became “Orson’s business manager, property manager, publisher, and phrenologist-in-training” [3]. Charlotte Fowler Wells, wife of Samuel Wells and sister to the Fowlers, “was the firm’s longstanding and highly respected business manager” and was even known as the “Mother of Phrenology” [3]. Lydia Fowler Wells, wife of Lorenzo Fowler, “was the second woman to receive an M.D. in the USA, after [British] Elizabeth Blackwell,” making her the first American woman to receive an M.D. [4]. When it came to the business of phrenology, middle-class American women were not only the number one consumers; they ran the show. 

Lydia Folger Fowler, M. D, was the first American female doctor of medicine. She was also the first female professor at an American medical college.
Image credit: “The Late Mrs. Lydia F. Fowler, M. D.” Wheaton College, c. 1880. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lydia_Folger_Fowler.jpg#metadata

During the Civil War, women stepped up to run their households in their husbands’ absences. Women were not about to let go of their newfound autonomy during the following Gilded Age, and phrenology was one of the earliest scientific fields in which women could practice and participate. You would be surprised to learn how progressive the Fowlers were as they “combined the business of phrenology with the work of reform, linking the science to temperance, dress reform, diet reform, water-cure and women’s rights” [4]. 

You can learn more about phrenology and women’s role in the field in the “Know Thyself” virtual exhibition.

Thirteen complete issues of The Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated are now available as digital editions of the Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection.

Sources Used:

  1. Morse, Minna Scherlinder. “Facing a Bumpy History,” Smithsonian Magazine, 1997 Oct. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/facing-a-bumpy-history-144497373/
  2. “Orson S. Fowler,” The Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated, Vol. 84-85, pp. 196-198. 
  3. Lilleleht, Erica. “‘Assuming the Privilege’ of Bridging Divides,” History of Psychology, vol. 18, no. 4, 2015, pp. 414-432.
  4. Bittel, Carla. “Woman, Know Thyself: Producing and Using Phrenological Knowledge in 19th-Century America,” Centaurus, 19 April 2014, pp. 104-130.

Will-o’-the-Wispé

~ contributed by Jodi Kearns & Abigail Williamson; Abby is a University of Akron history major who worked with the Wispé collection for her Museums & Archives Studies certificate Capstone Experience.

In the early 1950s, Lauren G. Wispé set out to study social and psychological factors associated with eminence in the field of psychology by analyzing selected psychologists’ responses to a 12-page questionnaire asking about family, early education, and socioeconomic backgrounds. If you want to read Wispé’s results, have a look at Traits of Eminent American Psychologists published in Science in 1963.

The Cummings Center has a small collection of the returned questionnaires, which have some coding marks from the data analysis, and no additional research materials.

Some of the questions ask about parents’ ages at the psychologist’s birth, parents’ professions, and family members’ achieved levels of education. Questions cover work experience, mentors and influences, promising students, and prominent research and publications. The collection is a trove of eminent psychologist autobiography and self-awareness.

Even one seemingly simple question opens a rabbit hole one can fall into for hours, such as the question, Have there been any handicaps or factors which have interferred [sic] with your career?

Some wrote that there were financial factors interfering with their careers:

Henry Edward Garrett
Chauncey McKinley Louttit
Floyd L Ruch

Some interfering factors were physical health:

Roger Garlock Barker
Arnold L Gesell
Gardner Murphy

Some factors were matters of personality and mental health:

Floyd Allport
Donald George Marquis

Writer’s block:

Dale Benner Harris

Mediocre conversationalist:

Stanley Smith Stevens

Unattractiveness:

Mitchell Dreese

Insufficient education was quite a common factor:

Charles William Bray
Donald Wallace MacKinnon
Walter Richard Miles

Cultural handicaps? Absolutely.

Samuel Weiller Fernberger
George Wilfred Hartman
David Krech
Lawrence S Rogers
Max Wertheimer

Too many assigned administrative responsibilities? Of course.

Carl I Hovland
Clifford Thomas Morgan

Some psychologists listed many factors:

Harold Mowbray Hildreth
Abraham Harold Maslow
Lewis Madison Terman
Robert Mearns Yerkes

And many fortunate fellows had none:

Gordon W Allport
Harry Frederick Harlow
Laurance Frederic Shaffer
Burrhus Frederic Skinner
Donald Edwin Super

And then there are these mid-20th Century vaguebookers:

Louis Leon Thurstone
William Clark Trow
George Richard Wendt

The Wispé questionnaires are both a chronical of self and a database of whimsy, which hold innumerable research projects and social media posts. We’re investigating the best way to make these digitized surveys and transcriptions fully available to you, while we await the time-consuming completion of the project.

Want to read what E.G. Boring wrote about E.B. Tichener being “adequate” and that Harry Harlow found his professors “moderately competent?” Want to read how E. C. Tolman named David Krech as an outstanding student and Krech listed Tolman as an academic mentor?

This collection has the tea, in psychologists’ own handwriting, and we’re excited to spill.