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Woman in Psychology

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Woman In Psychology

Sarah Buonarigo

PSY/310

April 4, 2013

Ms. Gina Craft

Woman In Psychology: Mary Whiton Calkins

Mary Whiton Calkins was the first female President of the American Psychological Association and in the American Philosophical Association Mary came from a family who highly valued education. It was no wonder that Mary Whiton Calkins was a pioneer in the field of psychology (Gale, 2001). She was known to invent many research techniques and made important advancements in the area of memory that believed to still be used today. Although Mary did not have an easy entrance in the field of psychology she was able to get her bachelors and continue studying psychology (Goodwin, 2008). Mary Calkins was never considered an official enrolled student at the University of Harvard like she would have wanted in order to obtain her undergraduate degree, however she was able to attend classes as a “guest” of the University of Harvard which still allowed her to receive an education in psychology (Goodwin, 2008).
Background
Mary Whiton Calkins was born March 30, 1863 in Hartford, Connecticut. Mary was the eldest of five children born to Reverend Wolcott Calkins and Charlotte Grosvenor Whiton. Mary took on adult responsibilities at a young age due to her mothers failing mental and physical health. Mary earned a bachelor of arts in the classics from Smith College and began teaching Greek at Wellesley College in 1887 (Gale, 2001). One year later she was offered a new position teaching psychology at Wellesley. In order for her to teach the courses, she had to receive one years training in psychology, which proved difficult because females were seldom welcome in universities (Gale, 2001). Harvard University allowed her to attend classes in psychology and philosophy but denied her entry to the graduate program. In fact, she was denied access to Harvard seminars until a faculty member’s William James and Josiah Royce objected to her denial. Her attendance at James’s seminar eventually led to William James becoming her mentor (Gale, 2001). A year later she published a paper on associations, which was well received. Mary would later become successful in her psychology career and establish the first psychology laboratory at Wellesley, collaborate experimental study of dreams published in the American Journal of Psychology, and play an important role in the investigation of factors influencing memory (Gale, 2001).
Theoretical Perspective
Mary Whiton Calkins most renowned theoretical perspective in psychology was her concept of self-psychology. She defined her concept of self-psychology as the study of conscious persons or selves (McDonald, 2007). She arrived at this concept as a result of her interactions with William James who asserted that introspective observation is what we have to rely on first and foremost and always for the observation of the self. Mary Whiton Calkins contended that all conscious is personal and unique to each individual. The self-component of her concept differentiated self-psychology from other forms of psychology (McDonald, 2007). Mary believed that the individual’s constant scrutiny of the self through perception and association was the main function of the mind. Furthermore, she believed this process was more than intellectual and involved a person’s moral and spiritual convictions as well. In other words, how we perceive and process information internally is based upon more considerations than our intellectual ideas. Her ideas were not popular in academia because women were seen as intellectually inferior to men; hence, the reason females were not admitted in graduate programs at the time (McDonald, 2007).
Contributions

Mary’s contributions included work in the area of association and memory. She conducted several experiments using variations of numbers and colors (Furumoto, 1980). For instance, she would associate a color with a number and determine if a subject could recollect one because it had been associated with the other. She determined that memory was improved by frequency of exposure, and also that bright colors were retained more often than those associated with neutral colors (Furumoto, 1980).
Mary went on to open the first psychological laboratory at a women’s college – Wellesley. This was a major undertaking given women were not considered intellectual enough to be taken seriously in the world of science. There were 54 students who worked under Calkins in the laboratory. Studies on sensation, association, attention, space perception, memory, and reaction time were conducted. Sheep brains were dissected in this laboratory (Furumoto, 1980)!
Mary was the author of several articles written which recorded the results of the experiments conducted in her laboratory. The studies of this group covered various topics including dreams, psychological aesthetics, synesthesia, the emotional lives of children, moral consciousness, stories, and drawings. Over the period of 10 years, Calkin had trained hundreds of students in research and communicated her findings in several psychological journals (Furumoto, 1980).
Calkin went on to research the nature of dreams. Through a process of recording dreams from several subjects over a seven-week period, she determined a persons dream life had a close connection to their waking life. Dreams were a reproduction of a person’s places and events of a recent sense perception (Furumoto, 1980). Freud would later release his own dream research, which seemingly embarrassed Calkin though Freud praised her (and her students) earlier findings. In the 1980’s – it was Freudian whose research would come under attack because of its emphasis on hidden meaning and Calkins work with dreams became central and received the praise of dream researchers and neurosciences (Furumoto, 1980).
Mary’s greatest contribution may well have been championing the rights of women and helping to prove their intellectual capability held the same possibilities to that of a man’s. Not only did she have to overcome the perceived inequality of her gender but also had to fight to have her ideas and research taken seriously – no easy task.
Conclusion
In an uneasy time when woman were thought to be mentally inferior to men, Mary Whiton Calkins proved that this sexist conception was far from the truth. Because of her family’s strong devotion to education Mary Whiton Calkins was educated beyond her time. However she proved that if given the opportunity women could equally achieve academic levels to men. Although Mary Whiton Calkins would probably have never given up her ideas she was lucky enough to had been accepted by great psychology professors like William James and Josiah Royce who treated her as an equal and championed her trials for graduate work. Although it has been said that Harvard University never officially granted Mary Whiton Calkins her PhD. Mary Whiton Calkins did receive an offer from Radcliffe, which is the women’s version of Harvard, but Mary declined she did not want a degree from any other school besides the one she earned it at. Mary Calkins also thought that if she accepted then Harvard University would continue on discriminating against women (Furumoto, 1980). The decline to accept Radcliffe’s offer is an exact point of Mary’s morale beliefs. Even though Mary was denied her PhD from Harvard, her professional and scholarly achievements led to several honors including being ranked 12th on the list out of 50th for leading psychologist in 1903 (Furumoto, 1980). Mary Whiton Calkins was elected the first female president of American Psychological Association in 1905 and in 1918 she was also elected the first female president of the American Philosophical Association. Mary Whiton Calkins believed that in her time women had to work three times as hard, be twice as smart, and more brave and out spoken than any other woman around her (Furumoto, 1980). Mary Whiton Calkins did more than just contribute to the fields of philosophy and psychology. She stood for her beliefs, which then paved the way for future female students who will continuously disprove the old theories of the intellectual inferiority of women.

References

The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. Ed. Bonnie Strickland. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2001. 104-105. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

Goodwin, C. J. (2008). A History of Modern Psychology (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Furumoto, L. (1980). Mary Whiton Calkins (1863-1930). Psychology of Women Quarterly, 5, 55-68.

McDonald, D. N. (2007). Differing concepts of personhood within the psychology and philosophy of Mary Whiton Calkins.

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...year. However she went back to the Smith University in 1885, and graduated with a double major in classics and philosophy. Later on the year, the Calkins family went to Europe and Mary studied Greek at the University of Leipzig. After she returned to the States, she was asked to teach Greek at the Wellesley College. She had been teaching Greek for about a year, when offered a position teaching psychology. Unfortunately, she struggled tremendously. There were few places for women to work or even graduate in psychology (Bumb,n.d). Calkins was invited to sit-in on William James and Josiah Royce lectures on a strictly casual basis at the Harvard University. On October 1, 1980 Calkins was allowed to attend the seminars of James and Royce but had to accept the terms that she was only allowed to be admitted as a guest and not allowed to become a student of the University. (Bumb,n.d). In 1895 she returned to Wellesley College where she got the opportunity to be an Associate Professor of Psychology and later was promoted to a Professor. She wrote four books, Including, An introduction into Psychology in 1901, The Persistent Problems of Philosophy in 1907, and The Good Man and the Good in 1918. She also published an article on children. In 1905, she was elected as president of the American Psychological Association and in 1918; she was elected the President of the American Philosophical Association. She was also ranked twelfth in the list of 50 leading psychologists in the United......

Words: 807 - Pages: 4