Mary Whiton Calkins

.. t considered. RESEARCH & ACHIEVEMENTS In 1895, Calkins returned to Wellesley College where she was made an Associate Professor of Psychology and Philosophy and was promoted to Professor in 1898. She wrote hundreds of papers divided between the two disciplines. Calkins’ writings encompass more than a hundred papers in professional journals of psychology and philosophy. She wrote four books, including, An Introduction to Psychology (1901); The Persistent Problems of Philosophy (1907), which went through five editions; and The Good Man and the Good (1918).

Throughout this period Calkins did work in both the fields of psychology and philosophy. For example, in the same year she published an analytic and experimental essay on association, she also published an article on the religiousness of children. Three years later her contribution to research on the attributes of sensation was published, along with a philosophical treatment of time as related to causality and to space. Her most influential work in philosophy, The Persistent Problems of Philosophy, appeared at the same time as some of her important psychological articles on the self (3). After 1900, Calkins’ major contribution to psychology was the development of a system of self-psychology (2).

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Her own work in the field dealt primarily with such topics as space and time consciousness, emotion, association, color theory and dreams. Her theory held, in contrast to behaviorist views then in the ascendant, that the conscious self is the central fact of psychology. In the field of philosophy she acknowledged Royce’s idealism as the chief influence leading her to her own system of personalistic absolutism. In 1905, Calkins was elected president of the American Psychological Association and the president of the American Philosophical Association in 1918. Her achievements brought her a number of honors in addition to the presidencies. In a 1908 list of leading psychologists in the United States, Calkins was ranked twelfth of the list (2). Columbia University bestowed a Doctor of Letters degree on her in 1909 and Smith College a Doctor of Laws degree in 1910.

Both Columbia and Smith also offered her positions on their faculty, which she declined, partly because of the responsibility she felt to remain with and look after the welfare of her parents (2). In 1929, after a teaching career spanning forty-two years, Calkins retired from Wellesley College with the title of Research Professor. She planned on devoting her retirement to writing and enjoying the companionship of her mother, but less than one year later she was dead, the victim of inoperable cancer (2). SELF-PSYCHOLOGY Two underlying forms of psychology in vogue at the time were atomistic psychology and the science of selves. Calkins was the first to discover the psychology of selves. She called it reconciliation between structural and functional psychology.

Her first basic definition of her psychology is as follows: All sciences deal with facts, and there are two great classes of facts-Selves and Facts-for-the-Selves. But the second of these great groups, the Facts-for-the-Selves, is again capable of an important division into internal and external facts. To the first class belong percepts, images, memories, thoughts, emotions and volitions, inner events as we may call them; to the second class belong the things and the events of the outside world, the physical facts, as we may name them.. The physical sciences study these common and apparently independent or external facts; psychology as distinguished from them is the science of consciousness, the study of selves and the inner facts-for-selves (3). Calkins felt that her psychology could relate, if not directly but indirectly, within other current models of psychology. As Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis gained notoriety, she felt that self-psychology could interpret all the facts discovered by him.

She wrote, Self-psychology is finally at the core of every one of the psychoanalytic systems. Not only does the conscious ego play a role, if only a minor role, on the psychoanalytic stage, but even the unconscious closely studied turns out to resemble nothing so much as a dissociated self (3). As psychological views moved on, Calkins theory became dissolved and rather dated. However, in 1937, Gordon Allport wrote Personality: A Psychological Interpretation. In this book he gave considerable credit and notoriety to Calkins’ ideas and self-psychology.

However, in the third revision of his book, he dropped all references to Calkins. Since then most of Calkins’ ideas and much of her work has been swept under the rug. WOMEN’S ISSUES At the time in which Calkins was struggling to get her education, she faced many setbacks because she was a woman. These experiences shaped many of her views on women’s rights and cultivated her into somewhat of an advocate. In the 1890s, for example, she challenged the work of a colleague, Joseph Jastrow. In his study, he asked college students, both male and female, to write down one hundred words as fast as possible.

He found that women repeat one another’s words more than men and there is less variety among women than among men (2). After analyzing these lists he concluded, that the feminine traits revealed..are an attention to the immediate surroundings, to the finished product, to the ornamental, the individual, and the concrete; while the masculine preference is for the more remote, the constructive, the useful, the general, and the abstract (2). Calkins was infuriated by his findings and responded that if sufficiently extended, establish characteristic differences in the interests of men and women. However, she maintained that it was futile and impossible to attempt a distinction between masculine and feminine intellect per-se..because of our entire inability to eliminate the effect of the environment (6). Another area that she opposed differentiation was the right to vote. In an address to a National Suffrage Convention at Baltimore, she maintained that: the student trained to reach decisions in the light of logic and of history will be disposed to recognize that, in a democratic country, governed as this is by the suffrage of its citizens, and given over as this is to the principle and practice of educating women, a distinction based on difference of sex is artificial and illogical (2). The most profound action against sexist attitudes that she rejected was her refusal to accept the offer of a Radcliffe Ph.D.

In 1902, she and three other women who had done graduate work at Harvard, but were not eligible for a Harvard degree on account of their sex were recommended by Radcliffe and approved by Harvard as candidates for the degree of Ph.D. from Radcliffe College. Although she was urged by several colleagues to take the degree, she declined. She writes, I sincerely admire the scholarship of the three women to whom it is to be given and I should be very glad to be classed with them. I furthermore think it highly probably that the Radcliffe degree will be regarded, generally, as the practical equivalent of the Harvard degree. Finally, I should be glad to hold the Ph.D.

degree for I occasionally find the lack of it an inconvenience; and now that the Radcliffe degree is offered, I doubt whether the Harvard degree will ever be open to women. On the other hand, I still believe that the best ideals of education would be better served if Radcliffe College refused to confer the doctor’s degree. You will be quick to see that, holding this conviction, I cannot rightly take the easier course of accepting the degree (2). To this day Harvard has not issued any degree in honor of Mary Whiton Calkins and feels that there is no reason to award the degree Biographies.