Leta Stetter Hollingworth
written by: Donald F. Kneessi
|I attest that the following biography is a
product of my own original
- On May 25th 1886, she was born in Nebraska. Her parents were Margaret Elinor Danley and
John G. Stetter. Leta was the first born
followed by two other girls, Ruth Elinor and Margaret Carley. Her mother died immediately after the birth of
Margaret Carley. Leta Hollingworth’s
father, after the death of his wife, left his three daughters with
their maternal grandparents for ten years (Hochman, N/D).
- In 1902, she graduated from Valentine
High School. At sixteen, she entered the University
In addition to having an outstanding
four-year academic record, she also gained an accomplished reputation
for her creative writing. While at the University
of Nebraska, Leta Stetter
met her future husband, Henry Hollingworth. They
both became engaged while at the University (Hochman, N/D).
- In 1906, she received her
Bachelor of Arts degree along with a State Teacher's Certificate. She graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors. She
was thus qualified to teach English Language and Literature in any Nebraska
public high school (Hochman, N/D).
where Leta Stetter had her first job as assistant principal of the high
school in the fall of 1906. Leta Stetter
taught there for one year, and then went to a second teaching position
in McCook. Her teaching career ended
abruptly in the middle of her second year at McCook when Harry, having
obtained an assistant professorship at Barnard
could afford to bring her to New York.
They were married on December
31, 1908 (Hochman, N/D).
- Even though she was happily
married, the first few years in New York
were hard for Leta Hollingworth. Due
to her now being married, she was unable to secure a teaching job. She
kept herself busy with housework and writing fiction.
She was unable to publish her short
stories. Finally in 1911, they were able
to budget some tuition money for Leta to take some "bare bones"
graduate courses in the field of literature (Hochman, N/D).
- Soon after completing her
Masters studies, Leta Hollingworth got the opportunity to work
part-time at the Clearing House for Mental Defectives.
Her job was to administer Binet
intelligence tests, which having no prior experience, she quickly
taught herself to do. In 1914, the Civil
Service began supervising the administration of these mental tests and
it became necessary for examiners to take competitive exams in order to
establish eligibility. Leta Hollingworth
was the top scorer and worked at Bellevue
where she was later offered the position of chief of the soon to be
established psychological lab (Hochman, N/D).
- While continuing in this
position of consulting psychologist, she completed her Doctorate work
at Columbia University
under Edward L. Thorndike. She received her Ph.D. in June of 1916; she
was offered a teaching position in educational psychology at Columbia
Teacher's College. She accepted and
remained in that position for the rest of her life.
Five years later she was cited in the
American Men of Science for her contributions to the psychology of
women (Hochman, N/D).
- She continued to work at Bellevue
at least one day a week and helped to establish the Classification
Clinic for Adolescents where she later functioned as its psychologist.
In addition to her teaching duties at Columbia,
she was the principal of the School for Exceptional Children there
- Leta Hollingworth conducted
extensive empirical research on the variability hypothesis, the idea
that for physical, psychological, and emotional functioning in women
are more homogeneous and average age group than men and showed less
variation. Her research between 1913 and
1916 focused on physical and sensorimotor functioning and intellectual
abilities in a variety of subjects; ranging from infants, female and
male college students, and women during their menstrual period. Her data refuted the variability hypothesis
and other notions of female inferiority. She
found that the menstrual cycle was not related to performance deficits
in perceptual and motor skills or in intellectual abilities, where it
was earlier assumed that menstrual cycles affected it (Hochman, N/D).
- She also challenged the
concept of an innate instinct for motherhood, questioning the idea that
women could find satisfaction only through bearing children. She also dismissed the idea that women’s
desires to achieve other fields, outside of marriage and family were
somehow abnormal or unhealthy. She
suggested that social and cultural attitudes rather than biological
factors were influential in keeping women from becoming fully
contributing members of society (Benjamin & Shields cited in
Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
- She also cautioned vocational
and guidance counselors against advising women that they should
restrict their aspirations to the then socially acceptable fields of
childrearing and housekeeping, where prominence and visibility are
denied (Benjamin & Shields cited in Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
- She also made
significant contributions to clinical, educational, and school
psychology, especially the educational and emotional needs of “gifted”
children, a term she coined (Benjamin & Shields cited in Schultz
& Schultz, 2004).
- She was never able to obtain
research grant support despite the breadth and quality of her research
(Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
- She was active in the woman’s
suffrage movement, campaigning for women’s right to vote and taking
part in parades and demonstrations in New York
(Schultz & Schultz, 2004).