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Leta Stetter Hollingworth

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Leta Hollingworth (May 25, 1886-- November 27, 1939) was a psychologist who conducted pioneering work on the psychology of women as well as on the education of exceptional children.

Biography Edit

Hollingworth was born Leta Anna Stetter on May 25, 1886 on a farm outside of Chadron, Nebraska. After graduating from the University of Nebraska in 1906 Stetter pursued a writing career, but financial considerations led her to take on a teaching position in her home state. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] On December 31, 1908 Stetter married Harry Levi Hollingworth, a graduate assistant of James McKeen Cattell’s at Columbia University in New York City. Once married Hollingworth was unable to gain employment because married women were not hired as teachers in New York City. [1] [2] [6] [7] [3] [5] [8] [9] This left Hollingworth frustrated at her inability to be more than a housewife. [1] [2] [3] [5] [8]

Eventually, the Hollingworth’s were able to save enough money to allow Leta to attend graduate school, and in 1911 Hollingworth began graduate work in educational psychology at Columbia under the supervision of Edward Lee Thorndike. [1] [6] [3] [5] [8] [9] Having experienced impediments to personal achievements as a result of her sex, Hollingworth was moved to empirically investigate the factors that were thought to make women inferior to men. [1] [2] [3] [5] [8] Consequently, Hollingworth was a leading figure in the development of the psychology of women. A job opportunity at the Clearing House for Mental Defectives allowed Hollingworth the opportunity to refute the variability hypothesis, an element of the social darwinism of the period, and a basis for many claims of female inferiority. By examining case records Hollingworth determined that although men outnumbered women, the ratio of men to women decreased with age. Hollingworth explained this as the result of men facing greater societal expectations than women, leading to the earlier detection of deficiencies in men. [1] [2] [3] [10] [5] [8]

In an attempt to examine the validity of the variability hypothesis, and to avoid the effects of intervening social and cultural factors, Hollingworth gathered data on birth weight and length of 1,000 male and 1,000 female neonates. This research found virtually no difference in the variability of male and female infants, and it was concluded that if variability “favoured” any sex it was the female sex. [1] [2] [3] [10] [5] Along with the anthropologist Robert Lowie Hollingworth published a review of literature from anatomical, physiological, and cross-cultural studies, in which no objective evidence was found to support the idea of innate female inferiority. Hollingworth also attacked the variability hypothesis theoretically, criticizing the underlying logic of the hypothesis. [1] [2] [10] [11] [5]

Hollingworth’s doctoral dissertation also dealt with the psychology of women. Entitled “Functional periodicity: An experimental study of the mental and motor abilities of women during menstruation” it found no evidence of changes in performance associated with phases of the menstrual cycle, refuting a common belief of the time. [1] [2] [6] [3] [10] [4] [11] [5] [8] [9] Although Hollingworth continued to publish theoretical papers on the psychology of women for years, her empirical research on the topic came to an end shortly after she received her PhD in 1916. In fact, Hollingworth planned for years to write a book on the psychology of women for which she had chosen the title, “Ms. Pilgrim’s Progress.” Unfortunately Hollingworth passed away before she could complete this work. [1] [2] [3] [5] [8] It’s been speculated that one reason Hollingworth didn’t continue her empirical work on the psychology of women, was that American womens’ attainment of the vote in 1920 lessened the urgency of the need for such work (Hollingworth herself was an active member of the Women's Suffrage Party). [1] [2] [5]

In 1916 Hollingworth accepted a position at Columbia University Teachers College where she continued research into the psychology of exceptional children begun by her predecessor at the college, Naomi Norsworthy. [1] [2] [4] [9] This work didn’t begin immediately, as from 1916 to 1920 Hollingworth’s work focused on children with some form of mental retardation or education difficulties. It was only in the early 1920’s that Hollingworth continued Norsworthy’s work in earnest. [1] [9] She devoted the remainder of her life to this work and gained a reputation as a national authority on exceptional children, in the realms of both education and clinical psychology. Additionally, Hollingworth helped found a special experimental public school for the study of the gifted and mentally deficient and conducted longitudinal research on the intellectually gifted. [1] [2] [4] [11] [5] Although Hollingworth repeatedly applied for research funding she was never awarded any funds. [11] [5] Leta Hollingworth died of abdominal cancer in 1939. [1] [2]

See alsoEdit

External links Edit

References Edit

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 Benjamin, L. T. (1975). The pioneering work of Leta Hollingworth in the psychology of women. Nebraska History, 56, 493-505.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Benjamin, L. T. (1990). Leta Stetter Hollingworth: Psychologist, educator, feminist. Roeper Review, 12, 145-151.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Benjamin, L. T., & Shields, S. A. (1990). Leta Stetter Hollingworth (1886-1939). In A. N. O’Connell & N. F. Russo (Eds.), Women in psychology: A bio-bibliographic sourcebook (pp.173-183). Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Gates, A. I. (1940). Leta S. Hollingworth. Science, 91, 9-11.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 Shields, S. A. (1975). Ms. Pilgrim’s Progress: The contributions of Leta Stetter Hollingworth to the psychology of women. American Psychologist, 30, 852-857.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Benjamin, L. T. (1996). Harry Hollingworth: Portrait of a generalist. In G. A. Kimble, C. A. Boneau, & M. Wertheimer (Eds.) Portraits of pioneers in psychology (Vol. 2, pp.191-135). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  7. Benjamin, L. T., Rogers, A. M., & Rosenbaum, A. (1991). Coca-Cola, caffeine, and mental deficiency: Harry Hollingworth and the Chattanooga trial of 1911. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 27, 42-55.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 Shields, S. A. (1991). Leta Stetter Hollingworth: "Literature of Opinion" and the study of individual differences. In G. A. Kimble, M. Wertheimer, & C. White (Eds.), Portraits of pioneers in psychology (pp.243-255). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Shields, S. A., & Mallory, M. E. (1987). Leta Stetter Hollingworth speaks on "Columbia’s legacy". Psychology of Women Quarterly, 11, 285-300.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Denmark, F. L., & Fernandez, L. C. (1993). Historical development of the psychology of women. In F. L. Denmark & M. A. Paludi (Eds.), Psychology of women: A handbook of issues and theories (pp. 1-22). Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Poffenberger, A. T. (1940). Leta Stetter Hollingworth: 1886-1939. The American Journal of Psychology, 53, 299-301.


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