Women in Psychology
In honor of Women’s History Month, we will be celebrating one of the most noteworthy women in psychology- Mary Whiton Calkins. Mary graduated from Smith College in 1884, and was later offered a position teaching psychology. Mary was required to study the subject of psychology for at least one year before she could begin teaching, which presented its own set of difficulties. With psychology being such a new area of study, there were few programs available, and even less that accepted women. In 1890, Mary put in a formal request with Harvard University to allow her to attend the lectures of William James to further her studies. Harvard administration initially refused her request, but with the help of her father and the President of Wellesley College, she was finally accepted to the university as a “guest.”
While at Harvard University, Calkins invented the paired- associate task, which is used to study memory. In 1895 she presented her thesis to a graduate committee, and despite the unanimous approval of her thesis, Harvard refused to grant Calkins her degree. Harvard University still refuses to grant Calkins’ degree posthumously, despite her vast contributions to the field of psychology.
Mary Whiton Calkins continued her studies and struggle for equality, and she is best known for becoming the first female president of the American Psychological Association in 1905. Mary was also offered a Doctors of Letters in 1909 from the University of Columbia, and a Doctors of Laws in 1910 from Smith College. Calkins published countless writings on psychology and philosophy up until her death in 1930.