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Where Them Girls At? 5 of the Most Influential Women in Psychology

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

Freud this, Watson that … while being a psychology major through all of my four years of undergrad and taking an Introduction to Psychology class in high school, I have never once learned about a female psychologist. Well, maybe I have in passing, but it has not clearly not been significant enough to make a lasting impact. Every name to note and theory to memorize has been created by, or at least coined by, a man. Due to this, I took it upon myself to delve a little deeper and discover the true masterminds of psychology, because, as we know, behind every great man is a great woman (or a woman rolling her eyes). 

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Original photo by Kate Devitt

This list is not in any particular order, and is based on research found online.

Anna Freud

Daughter to the famous Sigmund Freud, pentalingual Anna furthered her father’s studies and introduced the concept of defense mechanisms. She served as her father’s right hand, and even his nurse during his last years. She is also named as the founder of child psychoanalysis, and developed theories regarding the ego. Anna unfortunately suffered from various health problems, and passed away at the age of 86. 

Mamie Phipps Clark

Mamie was the first Black woman to receive a degree from Columbia University, and played highly important roles in the development of the Clark Doll Test, and in the Brown vs Board of Education case. Despite these roles and her influential research, she suffered from extreme discrimination and prejudice during her life, and faced adversity finding a job. While Mamie played a huge role in the development of the Doll test, her husband is accredited first (However, a quick Google search shows both of their names. Slay.).

Marsha linehan

After suffering from various mental illnesses, Marsha created Dialectical Behavior Therapy, a way for people to treat BPD, or borderline personality disorder. I am actually learning about this disorder in one of my classes, and didn’t hear a word about Marsha! A former professor at the University of Washington, Marsha was applauded for her “unparalleled impact within the global community and the field of psychology” in a newsletter article announcing her retirement.

Kay Redfield Jamison

Named a “Hero in Medicine” and one of the “Best Doctors in the United States,” Kay has made a name for herself in the field, and has vastly contributed to treating and understanding bipolar disorder. Recently, Kay has been featured in a New York Times article that recounts her life, mental health struggles, and academic and career success. 

Karen Horney

Much like myself when I learned about Freud’s hypersexual theories, Karen was a main critic of Freud’s emphasis on genitals and sex in his research, and found that his research was biased against women. Karen was known for developing a theory about neurotic needs, and focused her efforts on feminine psychology. 

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After this research and a little glossing over my previous psychology notes, I realize that it would be a lot to ask for psychology courses to specifically delve into the roles of women when they may be more focused on the principles and theories of developmental psychology. However, I do believe that there could be a whole other class proposed that specifically focuses on women’s role and influence in the psychological field. While this is important to me as a female student, graduate school applications also ask applicants to be affluent on current events in the field and its history, and I believe that women should be included in those narratives. 

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Anais Clinch

U Mass Amherst '24

Anais is a senior honors psychology major and sociology minor at UMass.