Margaret Floy Washburn



Margaret Stauffer – Member

Margaret Floy Washburn was born July 25, 1871. Her father was a priest, and moved to Ulster County when she was 7. At the age of 15 she graduated from high school, and went on to Vassar College, Poughkeepsie New York. Washburn graduated from Vassar in 1891, and was determined to continue her education. She worked hard to study under James McKeen, Cattell, and the newly appointed psychologist in the Columbia University psychological laboratory. While Columbia University was still refusing females as graduate students, she was allowed to attend classes as an auditor. Washburn attended classes this way for a year before her teacher, Cattell, encouraged her to attend Sage School of Philosophy, a newly formed part of Cornell University. Washburn followed Cattell’s advice and enrolled in the fall of 1892.

In Cornell, Washburn was the first and only graduate student of E. B. Titchener. Washburn worked on the experimental study of the methods of equivalences in tactual perception. Vassar College awarded Washburn a Master’s degree in absentia in 1893. Washburn then began to develop her thesis. She decided to study the influence of visual imagery on judgments of tactual distance and direction. In June of 1894, she was awarded a Ph. D in psychology. She is credited as the first female to gain a Ph.D., because Mary Calkins was denied on the bases of being a woman. Her professor Titchener sent her dissertation to Wilhelm Wundt. Wundt translated the work, and published it in his Philosophische Studien.

After receiving her Ph.D. Washburn was elected into the American Psychology Association. Washburn went on to be offered the chair position of Psychology, Philosophy and Ethics at Wells College in Aurora, New York. Washburn spent 6 years there, until 1900, when she accepted as position at Sage College of Cornell University. Washburn move schools again after 2 years, to work as an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. At that time, she was the only female on staff. Ohio was a lonely place for Washburn, and after just a year she left for Vassar College. She stayed there as Associate Professor of Philosophy until a stroke caused her to retire in 1937. On October 29th, 1939, Washburn died in her home in New York.

Washburn published her work in 1908, The Animal Mind. Her studies showed that mental events are legitimate and important for psychological studies. After that, Washburn worked on a more complete motor theory, and published Movement and Mental Imagery in 1916. She had 35 year of experience, and wrote 127 articles. She studied spatial perception, memory, experimental aesthetics, individual differences, animal psychology, emotion and affective consciousness. She wrote and edited for the American Journal of Psychology, Psychological Bulletin, Journal of Animal Behavior, Psychological Review and the Journal of Comparative Psychology. Washburn became the president of the American Psychological Association in 1921, and was became the second female scientist to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1932.


Mary Whiton Calkins, Paving the Way for Female Psychologists


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Ashley Stewart – Member

WI2Mary Whiton Calkins was born on March 30th in 1863 in Connecticut. Calkins began her educational journey when she attended Smith College and she also studied abroad in Europe studying Greek and classic literature. After returning, she was able to get a tutoring position at Wellesley College and her teaching methods impressed a psychology professor who offered her a teaching position as long as she learned psychology for a year. She decided that she’d like to learn at Harvard University but the University’s president resisted allowing her admittance due solely to the fact that she was a woman. Some convincing allowed her to study at the university only as a guest, not a student.

One of Mary’s contributions to psychology was her invention of the paired-associations test in which stimuli paired with other vivid-stimuli created better recall from memory. She also discovered that duration had a relationship to the ability to recall information, the longer you study the better you’ll remember.

Mary was discriminated against multiple times during her education, though she was extremely bright and promising to the fields of psychology, literature, and philosophy her gender was used against her in attempts to keep men and women separated. Mary continued her education with Harvard and even met the requirements to obtain her PhD but Harvard refused to give it to her. The discrimination she faced didn’t keep her down and Mary continued to learn and educate others in the field of the psychology. She may not have been adequately appreciated during her time but as an up-and-coming psychology student I have gratitude and appreciation for everything she has provided to our field. Here’s to you, Mary Whiton Calkins, may you continue to inspire others!

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University of Alabama

What does feminism mean to me?

Stephanie Shackelford – Secretary

I’m only now exploring that question. As I re-evaluate everything in my life, I’m confronted with the fact that I perhaps was less than intentional with my decision many years ago to reject feminism. On second thought, though, I’m more inclined to believe that I didn’t reject feminism. I lived it. Even though I did not align myself with the vocal, public voices of feminism of my day and even though I disagreed with many of their conclusions, I embraced the fundamental concept that women deserve to have autonomy over their lives.

It its essence, that is feminism. All the rest is working out the details. Important details. Details where there is huge potential for vehement disagreement. Details that need to be discussed and debated and synthesized into individual lives. Details resting on the firm foundation that the choice is each individual’s to make.

Details like . . .

  • Does autonomy mean the ability to “turn the tables” and subjugate men?
  • Does autonomy mean rejecting any and all manifestations of what has been perceived feminine?
  • Does autonomy mean pressured to become like a man, make choices a man would make, exist as a “female man” in business and society?
  • Where does autonomy end and selfishness, egotism and oppression begin?
  • How do I tell the difference?

Autonomy means the ability to choose. It is a feminist choice to wear a burka if that choice is voluntary. If anyone forces, manipulates or in any way coerces a woman to wear one, it is oppression. It is a feminist choice to choose to be an engineer, just as it is a feminist choice to choose to be a homemaker or stay-at-home mom, if that is the freely executed choice of the woman. When society or individual relationships put pressure on an individual, forcing them to choose against their own desire, it is subjugation and oppression.

The flip side of autonomy is responsibility. One cannot exist without the other. Responsibility to own the choices, to accept and live with what flows from those choices. Or make new choices designed to change results. Responsibility to guard others’ autonomy as diligently as you guard your own. Responsibility to make choices that do no damage to others, to dialogue and adapt and even compromise in order to make choices that benefit both self and others. Responsibility to contribute, not drain resources from others or society. To give as much or more than is taken.

Each adult, male or female has the right to expect that autonomy.

That is why, even though I chose a traditional life path of wife, homemaker and stay-at-home mom, I consider myself a feminist. That is why I can embrace the Christian Bible and live my life by it. My readings, studies and discussions of it reveal that it, too, rests on that concept of choice, of autonomy. That is why now, at 54, alone and forced into a far lower socio-economic status than I’d like, I don’t give up and look for someone to take care of me. That is why I can’t support abortion, even though I’m told by society that supporting abortion is part of being feminist. Abortion forces one person’s choice onto another. That is oppression. In fact, it is oppression at it’s worse. It is annihilating the most defenseless, removing their autonomy completely.

This is just a portion of what feminism means to me.  What is feminism to you?

Start Here: Beginning in the Middle



by Meg Shackelford, President, 2014

As the alumni of one (life-shattering) literary theory class, I am often reminded that what we might call “the beginning” is rarely, if ever, a true beginning. For example, just reading the previous sentence requires that at least three things happened before it could have ever existed: the concept of written language had to be invented and become a common form of expression, English had to develop as a language enough so I could use words like “alumni” and “theory” to communicate my idea, and literacy had to become common, allowing me to know how to write and you to read. Thus, that “beginning” sentence’s “beginning” existed long before its first word was typed.

I keep all of this in mind as I type this, the first post, the beginning, of the Troy University Women’s Initiative’s blog. This is less of a beginning and more of the culmination of a year and a half of passionate online and offline discussions on every topic, ranging from prostitution, free-market feminism, reclaiming “bitch”, abortion rights of families 1, 2, 3, and (so many) glorious cartoons depicting everything from the definition of agender, to explaining Judith Butler with kittens, and a multitude of period jokes.

Through it all our members challenged each other and their own views of issues as we learned not only how to formulate and evaluate our own educated opinions, but also how to discuss sensitive (and oftentimes socially divisive) topics while still remaining a cohesive and cooperating group. The off-line core group met and grew to appreciate the input of new online-only members and a couple of these we were able to finally meet in person. The definition of “member” was expanded to include anyone who had a healthy and contributive interest in the group and we continued to grow both on and offline.

All of this personal and communal growth quickly revealed a vital need: a platform for longer forms of expression on which discussions can be created and critiqued in a different form. In answer to this need we are opening the Women’s Initiative blog. Just like the offline group continues to grow and discuss, so also will the Facebook group continue its collaborative discussion function in WI. Women’s Initiative will continue to pursue its goal: serving and empowering people to live beyond the confines of binary systems, through as many avenues available to us.