March is Women’s History Month – a month to honor the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women globally. On today’s blog, we’d like to honor the brave women who have impacted the field of psychology, whose passion and dedication paved the way for where we are today, and those who promoted equality in a formerly male-dominated field.
MELANIE REIZES KLEIN:
Klein pioneered “play-therapy” as a way to better understand the communication, intention, and neurosis of children. A controversial figure of her time, Klein’s studies directly contradicted Freud’s belief that children were unable to be psychoanalyzed. This dispute led to considerable controversy within psychoanalysis, leading many within the community to take sides in the debate. Freud openly criticized Klein’s theories and lack of a formal academic degree. Klein’s play therapy technique is still widely used today. Her emphasis on the role of the mother-child and interpersonal relationships on development also had a major influence on psychology.
“One of the many interesting and surprising experiences of the beginner in child analysis is to find in even very young children a capacity for insight which is often far greater than that of adults. “
– Melanie Klein
DR. MAMIE PHIPPS CLARK:
Mamie Phipps Clark was the first Black woman to receive a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University in 1943. Clark, in partnership with her husband Kenneth, created the ‘doll test’ which asked over 250 Black children to look at four dolls which were identical except for skin and hair color. They asked the children to indicate which doll they preferred and to assign attributes to each doll. Her research uncovered the dynamics of racial attitudes in children and helped people recognize how early prejudice and inferiority are introduced in children. As a result of this study, the Clarks were asked to provide expert testimony in several school desegregation trials. And notably, the Supreme Court cited the Clarks’ work in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, which made segregation in public schools unconstitutional. Today, one of the Black dolls used in her study is on display at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Kansas.
“A racist system inevitably destroys and damages human beings; it brutalizes and dehumanizes them, blacks and whites alike.”
– Mamie Phipps Clark
Karola Ruth Westheimer, better known as Dr. Ruth, is a sex therapist, author, talk show host, and Holocaust survivor. Dr. Ruth’s non-judgmental attitude to fans’ sexual queries boosted her popularity and helped end the stigma around discussing sexual health and sexual education. Over the years, Dr. Ruth Westheimer has received many awards for her work, including an honorary doctorate degree from Trinity College in 2004 and the Medal for Distinguished Service from the Teacher’s College at Columbia University.
“If you’re facing a problem, don’t tell yourself that you can’t do it. Convince yourself that you have the strength to deal with almost anything because of the way you were raised. And you do!”
– Dr. Ruth
Uta Frith is a developmental psychologist at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. She has pioneered much of the current research into autism and dyslexia. Frith’s work has helped debunk the theory that cruel or cold parenting can result in the appearance of such conditions in children, and has made formative contributions to understanding cognitive development in humans.
“The brain is not a pudding; it is an engine.”
– Uta Frith
DR. BRENÉ BROWN:
Dr. Brené Brown is the founder and CEO of The Daring Way and COURAGEworks, an online learning community that focuses on braver living and loving. Brown is also the founder of Brave Leaders Inc., a group dedicated to making her latest research on leadership development and cultural change accessible to entrepreneurs and leaders alike. Her TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability”, is one of the top five most viewed in the world with over 25 million views.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
– Dr. Brené Brown