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.