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Women in Psychology - Christine Ladd-Franklin

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Women in Psychology

Christine Ladd-Franklin grew up during the era when America's gender differentiation was in full effect. Even with gender-linked societal forces, Christine Ladd still excelled in science and math. There were many enabling influences in her life to encourage her to go forward with her career in science such as her father, her husband, and female relatives that supported women's rights. Christine Ladd was very outspoken about her ideas and theories in an environment that was considered unwelcoming for women. Christine Ladd is most known in history for her theory of color vision. This paper will describe Christine Ladd's background, her theoretical perspective, and her contribution to psychology.

Christine Ladd's Background

Christine Ladd-Franklin was born on December 1, 1847 in Windsor, Connecticut. She had two younger siblings. Her father was a successful merchant in New York City while she was a young girl. When Christine was 12 years old her mother passed away in 1860 and her father remarried soon after. Before Christine's mother (Augusta) passed away, she and her sister (Juliet Niles) were both staunch supporters of women's rights (Furumoto, 1992). Christine went to live with her aunt and continue her education at Welshing Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts (Vaughn, 2010). She started her college career at Vassar College in 1866. At first her family was unsure about her pursuing her education at Vassar but she eventually convinced her grandmother that education was the opportunity for her because the chances of her getting married were slim. She explained to her grandmother with the excess amount of women in New England and with her common looks she was unlikely to marry. With this her grandmother agreed. While attending Vassar her aunt, Juliet Niles supported her financially.

While attending Vassar, Christine Ladd studied with Maria Mitchell, a famous female astronomer. Maria Mitchell was a great inspiration to Ladd's academic and professional life. Christine had a great love for physics but there were too many difficulties for women at that time to work in laboratories so this led her to shift her focus to the study of mathematics. After two year of study at Vassar she graduated in 1869. After graduating between the years 1869-1876 Christine continued her own form of self-study by attending courses at Washington College, Jefferson College, and Harvard (Vaughn, 2010). Her main focus at Washington and Jefferson was mathematics and she studied botany at Harvard. She also taught in secondary schools for around ten years before deciding to pursue a graduate degree in math at John Hopkins (Goodwin, 2008). The only difficulty was that Hopkins did not admit women as students but Christine was admitted and completed all requirements for a doctorate degree by 1882. While attending Hopkins, Christine Ladd studied mathematics under Sylvester and symbolic logic under Charles S. Pierce (Furumoto, 1992). Charles S. Pierce was a big influence to Christine Ladd's involvement with psychology. After completing her degree at John Hopkins, Christine requested for a position lecturing at the university but was denied. She didn't give up though and insisted on a position at Hopkins. It was not until 1904 that she was allowed to lecture at Hopkins and one course per year. This continued on for five years. Although Christine Ladd completed her degree in 1882 it would not be until 1926 when she officially received her degree. She was seventy-nine years old at the time she received her award. It would be at John Hopkins that Christine Ladd would meet and fall in love with her husband, Fabian Franklin and then changing her name to Ladd-Franklin. Christine's choice in marriage during that time of period would forever have an effect on her career.

Influences in Christine Ladd's Life

Attending Vassar College alone proved to be a big influence in Christine's developing interest in science. Christine was also around her mother and aunt as a young girl, who were strong supporters of women's rights, which was a big influence to her involvement with women's rights lectures and activities. Mentioned earlier in the paper, Maria Mitchell was a role model for Christine and an inspiration for her while attending Vassar. Christine Ladd also had men that were a big influence in her life even during these

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