Women in Behavioral Health: A Women’s History Month Celebration

Women have played a pivotal role in shaping our understanding of mental and behavioral health. Through groundbreaking research and advocacy, women have advanced our field and ensured that it remains inclusive and accessible. In this post, we’ll celebrate some remarkable women leaders who have made significant contributions to psychology and behavioral health care.

A Pioneer in Psychology

Mary Whiton Calkins (1863 – 1930)

mary whiton calkins
Mary Whiton Calkins (1863 – 1930)

Calkins was a trailblazer in overcoming obstacles for women in psychology. Back in 1903, women were not considered qualified to earn degrees and they certainly weren’t allowed into Harvard. For that reason, one of the most important first-generation American psychologists, Mary Whiton Calkins secretly earned her Ph.D. at the Ivy League college under the pseudonym "William James”.

Throughout her career, Dr. Whiton Calkins published four books and more than 100 academic research papers. She even established one of the first psychology labs in the country at Wellesley College! In 1905 she became the first female President of the American Psychological Association (APA).

Breaking Barriers in Behavioral Health

Evalyn Segal (1932-2017)

evelyn segal
Evalyn Segal (1932-2017)

Credited as an early voice in the field of behavior analysis, Evalyn “Eve” Segal worked closely with Kenneth MacCorquodale, who was a student of B.F. Skinner. Eve’s work at the University of North Carolina strengthened our understanding of verbal behavior in children’s development.

Patricia Blough

In 1977, Patricia Blough became the first female associate editor of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior (JEAB). She authored multiple articles, including Local Contrast in Multiple Schedules: The Effect of Stimulus Discriminability.

Evelyn Satinoff (1937-2008)

Much of Evelyn Satinoff’s early research focused on the neural control of behavioral thermoregulation (this is a fancy way of saying how the body regulates temperature with behavior). She is most credited with demonstrating that behavioral thermoregulation can be as important in maintaining body temperature as physiological mechanisms.

Fast-forward to the 1970s when Applied Behavior Analysis was on the rise, more women emerged in the field. In the Handbook of Operant Behavior, 1977, Evelyn’s work was one of only four female authors included.

Marian Breland Bailey (1920 – 2001)

marian breland bailey
Marian Breland Bailey (1920 – 2001)

In the 1930s, when B.F. Skinner built the foundation of Behavior Analysis, and women were still openly discriminated against in the field of psychology, Marian Bailey broke the glass ceiling. She collaborated closely with Skinner and Keller Breland at the University of Minnesota in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Bailey helped pioneer positive reinforcement as a tactic for teaching skill development. A monumental achievement for the world of ABA!

Taking Applied Behavior Analysis to New Heights

Frances McSweeney

In the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Frances McSweeney is a driving force in expanding our comprehension of human reinforcement processes. As one of the first female associate editors for the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, McSweeney's work has had a serious impact on our understanding of motivation and behavior change!

Patricia Krantz & Lynn McClannahan

Patricia J. Krantz (1941 – 2020)

Patricia Krantz and Lynn McClannahan pioneered new techniques for teaching social and communication skills to children on the Spectrum. Their development of script fading procedures has been widely adopted within ABA therapy practices, including those at Midwest Autism & Therapy Centers.

Patricia Krantz was an Iowa native and earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Drake University right here in Des Moines, Iowa! In 1975, she and her colleague Lynn McClannahan were appointed the Co-Executive Directors of the Princeton Child Development Institute, a research and intervention program for children and adults with Autism.

The duo’s research has been recognized by the New Jersey State Senate and the New Jersey Association For Behavior Analysis, the American Psychological Association, and the Department of Applied Behavioral Science at the University of Kansas, to name but a few.

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