Leta Stetter Hollingworth
Researched and written by:  Donald F. Kneessi
I attest that the following biography is a product of my own original work..

  • 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 of Nebraska.  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).
  • DeWitt, Nebraska, was 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 College, 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 Hospital 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 (Hochman, N/D).
  • 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).




Hochman, S.K. (N/D). Leta Stetter Hollingworth. Webster University

Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2004). A History of Modern Psychology.

p. 191-192. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.



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