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Research Methods (9th edition)

Helen Bradford Thompson Wooley (1874-1947) earned a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Chicago, where she studied under John Dewey and James Angell. 

Her research spanned two areas: children’s welfare and discrimination against women. Her dissertation was the first objective study of the male superiority hypothesis. That very old idea had been reinforced in the late 19th Century by Darwin’s observation that, in many species, males were more dominant, bigger, stronger, and faster than females. 

Wooley compared men and women on a number of cognitive and emotional measures and found no significant sex differences. She attributed the fact of lower achievement by women in academic, business, and professional life as being due to social factors, such as male bias and suppression, rather than to biological differences in ability. Her work, published in 1903 (under her maiden name, Thompson), was nearly a hundred years before its time and was met with disbelief, criticism, and rejection by the male psychologists who dominated the field.

Wooley became a major advocate of women’s rights and a foremost mentor of women in education and child development (Schultz & Schultz, 2008). Her other major area of work was in child development, child welfare, and education. According to Schultz and Schultz (2008), her work led to improvements in child labor laws in Illinois.

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