|Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society|
Students, as part of an advanced seminar, examined and wrote about the lives of these women, their intellectual contributions, and the unique impact and special problems that being female had on their careers.
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Her father was Charles Humphrey, a building contractor. He is described as "a moral, quietly warm person whose consistency and concern were important to his daughter's development" (O'Connell and Felipe, 1990). Her mother, Louise Lewis Humphrey, was a housewife and a traditional Christian. After her children "reached a sufficient age... she became a tax analyst and respected lobbyist of principled convictions with the state legislature" (1990). She was "a firm instiller of traditional values, a believer in self-improvement, and with high intelligence, energy, and social concerns" (1990).
Humphrey's family was self-sufficient during the Depression. They owned a milk cow and had a garden to feed the family.
After then end of the war, Humphrey returned to her education in 1946, majoring in Psychology, at Reed College. Her major influences were Fred Courts and Monte Griffith. She graduated with honors in 1947. Humphrey applied to several graduate schools in the East and was accepted into Harvard. During a visit to Stanford over the summer, Humphrey met Earnest Hilgard. He, in turn, invited her to be a graduate student at Stanford. Having fallen in love with the campus and the location, Humphrey accepted and majored in clinical psychology.
At the time, the clinical psychology department was represented by Maud Merrill James, "a quietly shrewd, elegant, and gentle person with much experience with young problem children; she became a significant mentor for Humphrey both professionally and personally" (1990).
In 1948, Humphrey had an internship with the VA Clinical Psychology department. As a personal project, she took on "prolonged psychotherapy with a young schizophrenic veteran" (1990) for three years. This turned out to be a significant learning experience for her. During this time, she was also working in the Stanford Child Guidance Clinic, first as a psychometrician and then as a therapist with children and with parents.
"Humphrey took nonclinical studies at Stanford: on learning with Earnest Hilgard, on statistics with Quinn McNemar (at a personal level, a significant mentor), on comparative psych with Calvin Stone, on experimental methods with Donald Taylor, on the history of psychology with Paul Farnsworth, among others" (1990). During this time, Humphrey met Jack Block. The two "formulated some theoretical conception regarding concepts they called ego-control and ego-resiliency that lead to joint theses... and in 1950 they married, shortly after he completed his doctorate" (1990). Humphrey Block then completed her thesis in 1951, pregnant with her first child.
During the 1960s, Humphrey Block became more involved with psychology. She continued and extended work on factors predisposing toward asthma in childhood. In 1963, she received the Special Research Fellowship form the National Institute of Mental Health. She then moved the entire family to Oslo, Norway for a year. During this year, Humphrey Block held an appointment at the Norwegian Institute for Social Research and again became a full time psychologist.
Humphrey Block completed several studies comparing the socialization practices of the four Scandinavian countries, America, and England. In the process, she evolved her widely used assessment instrument, the Child Rearing Process Report (1965). In 1964, she returned to Berkeley during the student Free Speech movement. She "received a 1965 Rosenberg grant through the Institute of Human Development at Berkeley to conduct studies of the personalities, the moral orientations, and the parenting of different types of activists. Her papers on these matters were widely read and remain highly influential" (1990).
Humphrey Block also became involved in the politically charged atmosphere of Berkeley in the 1960's. She marched in protest against the Vietnam War, "walked the precincts to muster support for Eugene McCarthy, and helped start the Committee of Social Responsibility (which later was transformed into Physicians for Social Responsibility)" (1990).
In 1968, Humphrey Block received the National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Development Award, sited within the Institute of Human Development. Together, with her husband, she started an ambitious longitudinal study of personality development. The purpose of the study was intended to permit the developmental study of ego-control and ego resiliency, the study of sex role development and gender differences, the study of self-percepts over time, and the study of parenting styles and their consequences among other concerns.
The longitudinal study consisted of one hundred thirty children at ages three, four, five, seven, eleven, fourteen, and later at eighteen and twenty-three. This study "provided empirical recognitions that greatly influenced her theoretical perspective" (1990).
Humphrey Block's many research articles include subject topics such as: Sex-role and socialization patterns, on sex-role typing and instrumental behavior, on the many implications of ego-control and ego resiliency for the way behavior is organized and manifested, on tolerance of ambiguity in young children, on sex differences in cognitive functioning, on activity level, on the implications of parental disagreement regarding child-rearing, on various cognitive styles, on creativity, on continuity and changes in parents child-rearing practices, on the personality of children prior to divorce, and on the early antecedents of low self-esteem in adolescence, among others. In 1980, NOVA, a television program found on PBS, aired "The Pinks and the Blues." The hour long show focused on sex roles and featured Humphrey Block, her thoughts, and the longitudinal study.
Radcliffe College then initiated the Jeanne Humphrey Block Fellowship, which each year, helps support two female graduate students studying gender-related issues.
As a final word about Jeanne Humphrey Block, a passage from the forward in her posthumously written book, written by her husband, Jack Block.
The achievements in thinking and writing reflected in this work [Sex Role Identity and Ego Development, 1983] Jeanne accomplished over a period spanning less than a decade-while her scientific and professional life was extremely active, while she was the prime mover of a monumental longitudinal study of personality and cognitive development, while she was engaged with large family responsibilities and pleasures, and while she was buffeted by a chronic illness early understood to be ominous. My partner in life and in science for thirty-two years, Jeanne died of cancer after a long gallant struggle. If hers was a life fatefully, unfairly, cut short, it was also a life extraordinarily full, lived with zest and wisdom. She was a woman of valor, grace, intelligence, verve, warmth, and love. I miss and our children miss her heartening presence. But for us and for all who knew her, the meaning and usefulness of her life extend beyond her work to a better understanding of how our society shapes its children into the women and men they become.June 1984 Jack Block
Professor of Psychology
University of California, Berkeley