Graziano and Raulin (8th ed)Graziano & Raulin
Research Methods (8th edition)

Leta Stetter Hollingworth (1886-1939) was a 1906 Phi Beta Kappa honors graduate of the University of Nebraska. She taught in public schools for two years before marrying and moving to New York City, where she found that city law barred married women from teaching in public schools. Presumably, if married women were allowed to work outside the home, their husbands might suffer from neglect! So Hollingworth went back to school and, in 1916, earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University, which had finally dropped its policy of refusing to grant advanced degrees to women.

Hollingworth’s research career focused on studies of sex differences in intellectual and motor skills. For example, she was understandably interested in investigating  the prevailing notion that women were inferior to men in intellect, motor coordination, and emotional control. This was the limited variability hypothesis, the idea that women as a group, compared with men, tend to cluster around the mean of such human abilities as intelligence. Thus, there would be few women of exceptionally high intelligence. Her data showed no such differences. 

Hollingworth’s research also showed that women, during menstruation, did not suffer decrements in intellectual ability or emotional control, as was believed at the time. In her writing, Hollingworth emphasized the role of social prejudice, and not biological differences, in maintaining women’s generally lower achievements. Given the attitudes at the time (about 1910 to 1920), her research was not well-received.

Hollingworth also made significant contributions to education and clinical psychology, and is credited with coining the term gifted children, a group with whom she worked. In addition to her professional research and clinical and educational work in psychology, Hollingworth was outspoken about the stultifying male prejudice against women. She was highly active in the women’s suffrage movement, which finally succeeded in 1920 in establishing women’s right to vote.

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