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Posts Tagged ‘mentors’

– contributed by Lizette Royer Barton.

The American Psychological Association was founded in 1892 and in the organization’s 128-year history the membership has elected just 18 women presidents. From 1905 to 1980 they elected five women. 88 years. 88 presidents. 5 women.

Is this really all that surprising to anyone who has been paying attention, in general, to like everything in the world? Not really.

So who were those first 5 women presidents anyways? Mary Whiton Calkins (1905), Margaret Floy Washburn (1921), Anne Anastasi (1972), Leona Tyler (1973), and Florence Denmark (1980).  Yes, you saw that correctly. There really was a 51 year gap between the second and third women presidents. Believe it or not, women did exist in the field of psychology during those years and our friends over at Psychology’s Feminist Voices have these super helpful timelines so you can see for yourself: Women, Gender, Feminism, and Psychology in the United States and Canada 1848-1850s and 1950-Present

No doubt you’ve seen Mary Whiton Calkins and Margaret Floy Washburn in your introductory textbook, your history textbook, and probably elsewhere too. We all know the story of how Calkins took classes with William James, Josiah Royce, and Hugo Munsterberg all while Harvard refused to admit her as a “real” student. We all know the story of how she took an “unsanctioned doctoral examination” and knocked her committee’s damn socks off while doing so, and yet was still denied the degree by Harvard because she was a woman. We know this story.

We know that Margaret Floy Washburn was the second woman president of APA and the first woman to earn a PhD in psychology (1894). We know she studied with E. B. Titchener at Cornell and while he praised her abilities he also sure did a lot to keep women out of experimental psychology by banning them from The Experimentalists. We know this story.

If you’ve been paying attention maybe you know that Anne Anastasi earned her PhD from Columbia University when she was just 21 years old, took on psychological testing, and was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1987. Maybe you know that Leona Tyler studied individual differences, devised the Choice Pattern Technique (it’s still used today), and was devoted to public service. APA Division 17 named their highest honor the Leona Tyler Award for Lifetime Achievement in Counseling Psychology for goodness sakes. And maybe you know Florence Denmark taught the first doctoral level Psychology of Women course (1970), co-authored the first women’s studies textbook (1983), and was a co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology.

Maybe you know these stories. Hopefully you know these stories.

But I want to share some other stories. Namely, the way in which women have promoted each other and worked together in order to get more women into the field. Sure, the good ol’ boys network was flourishing (still is!) and there are a zillion examples here in the archives of Mr. So-And-So writing to Mr. What’s-His-Name about this young up and comer Mr. New-To-The-Field and voilà! The next thing you know New-To-The-Field has a prime academic position and is running a lab at a well-known university. Just like that. Almost like magic.

But you know what is even more magical? Women advocating for themselves and other women when the odds are stacked against them.

Let’s work backwards and start with Florence Denmark, the fifth woman president of APA (1980). We will start with Florence because she is awesome and January 28th is her birthday. Happy Birthday, Florence!

Florence Denmark is well known for her work in leadership and mentoring. She quite literally co-wrote the book on mentoring – A Handbook for Women Mentors (2010).

I headed to the basement to dig through Florence’s unprocessed donated materials and discovered box after box of awards – many of them in recognition of her mentoring of students and young professionals.

This one caught my eye.

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Florence Denmark papers, unprocessed

Plaques and awards are nice, sure, and Florence is very much deserving of every single one. But I was on the hunt for something more. I found it in spades.

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Florence Denmark papers, unprocessed

“I would like to thank you for writing a letter that helped with my promotion…. thank you for your effort on my behalf.”

“This is the first time I’ve experienced our “buddy system” at this level. Thank you.”

“I continue to be amazed at all you do for others….Thanks so much for all your efforts on my behalf with the graduate faculty.”

Florence Denmark has spent her career uplifting other women to the great benefit of the field of psychology. Just listen to psychologist Rhoda Unger introduce Florence as the invited speaker for the 1982 Psi Chi/Johns Hopkins G. Stanley Hall Lecture.

 

Happy Birthday, Dr. Denmark.

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APA Board of Directors, 1981. [Cummings Center Still Images collection, box V81]

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Florence Denmark, 1989, APA Annual Meeting New Orleans, Louisiana [Donald Dewsbury Still Images collection, V120, folder 4]

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Florence Denmark, 2009, Cummings Center Colloquium Series, The University of Akron [Cummings Center Still Images collection]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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