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– contributed by Lizette Royer Barton

The Cummings Center’s second installment of the 5 Minute History Lesson focuses on the life and career of Dr. Ruth Winifred Howard (1900-1997).

Dr. Robert V. Guthrie‘s (1976) Even the Rat Was White: A Historical View of Psychology introduced many of us to Dr. Ruth Howard via a brief two-page biography. Lucky for all of us, during his early research, Dr. Guthrie was able to track down Dr. Howard and interview her for his book.

He called information and asked for a Chicago listing for A. S. Beckham (her husband was psychologist Albert S. Beckham). He dialed the number and Dr. Ruth Howard picked up the phone. They spoke for nearly an hour and Dr. Guthrie recorded the entire interview.

“Lo and behold I received a number; I couldn’t believe it.” 

The phone interview is one of just a handful of known original artifacts for Dr. Ruth W. Howard. She speaks candidly with Dr. Guthrie about her upbringing in Washington DC and her quest toward a doctorate in psychology that took her to numerous universities until she finally earned her Ph.D. in psychology in 1934 from the University of Minnesota. They discussed her work in private practice alongside her husband Dr. Albert S. Beckham as well as her independent work within the Chicago mental health community following his death in 1964.

Throughout the early part of the interview Dr. Guthrie repeatedly referred to her as Dr. or Mrs. Beckham. Finally after roughly 20 minutes she had enough.

“I would appreciate it if you could call me Dr. Ruth Howard….”

Gladly, Dr. Howard. Gladly.

See the 5 Minute History Lesson series on youtube.

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