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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Bonnie Ruth Strickland

(1936 - Present)

Family Background

Bonnie Strickland was born in Louisville, Kentucky on November 24, 1936. Her parents were Willie Whitfield and Roy Strickland and were united together in 1934. Her father worked for the railroad and her mother was a housewife. Her parents had another child seven years later. When Bonnie turned eight years old her parents separated and at ten, she moved to Alabama with her brother and mother to start a new life. When Strickland was growing up she often visited her father. During a time when the family was living in Birmingham, Alabama they went through hard times and her mother worked as a waitress to provide for her family. As Bonnie became a teenager she was responsible for the housework and taking care of her brother. Bonnie also got a job at a library so she could help her family financially. While growing up, Bonnie enjoyed playing sports and particularly liked softball and tennis.

Educational Background

While attending school, Bonnie was an A student, and she also enjoyed school. After completing high school she wanted to go to college. Bonnie knew that for her to go to college she would have to pay for her tuition. So over the summer she saved her money plus the money she had from scholarships to help her go to school.

Strickland was accepted to Alabama College for Women, a school, which is known for training physical education teachers. While attending the University, While attending college her passion focused on becoming an athlete. However, Strickland decided in her sophomore year to major in psychology and while taking classes Bonnie became interested in social issues. One social issue of particular interest to Strickland was racial prejudice. On one school day, she remembered a comment that her professor had made. Her professor was scraping away skin layers from a cadaver of an old black man. The professor said "Look; the color is not skin deep." During this time Strickland knew that she wanted to pursue a career in psychology.

In 1958 Strickland applied to graduate school in psychology at Ohio State University. Strickland was very fortunate to have many professors to help her grow into understanding her major. She became very intellectual in both research and practice. She also was able to have clinical training in her field which gave her the opportunity to work at a Veteran Administration hospital in Palo Alto. During her years at Ohio University Strickland met professors that were affiliated in behavior therapy approaches that helped Strickland understand each approach.

In 1962 Bonnie received her Ph.D. and she accepted an academic position in the department of psychology at Emory University. After two years as an assistant professor at the University of Emory, Strickland was offered a position as Dean of women. Her position was to deal with the different problems women dealt with at the University. Strickland also made sure that she would fight for woman's rights through the American Psychological Association. (McHenry, 1983)

Strickland was favored by many at the University. She also met leaders in Martin Luther King's nonviolent movement where she then had the opportunity to march during the 1960's. Throughout her professional days at Emory, she published a number of articles. Strickland then accepted a position as a full professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Strickland then became a member of the faculty senate status of Women Committee and then was director of graduate studies for the department. In 1976 she then was elected as chair of the department of psychology. She only had the position until 1983 at which time Strickland became an associate to Joseph Duffy, the new chancellor of the University. Her duties consisted of advising subjects in affirmative action and the University organization. (Zorhy, 1990)

Major Achievements and Contribution

Strickland has accomplished many things in her life. Her areas of research include personality variables and the need for approval.

In 1970 she began writing concerning the area of locus of control. Strickland stated that she found that internal subjects were more likely than externals to be aware of reinforcement and extinction conditions in learning with awareness paradigm. Within her findings Strickland then concluded that possessing an internal or external orientation could, basically have an impact on how people would behave in numerous ways in a social situation. Another area of research includes the behavior of social activists. In the 60's and 70's Strickland did a study on locus of control construction. This study showed the important role of generalized expectancies in establishing behavior of the poor. (McHenry, 1983). One of Strickland's major achievements consists of being elected President of the American Psychological Association (APA). As President of APA, she had the opportunity to speak in the United States Senates and the House of Representatives in 1985. In 1988 she was appointed to the National Advisory Council of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (McHenry, 1983). She is currently active on the Board of American Psychological Association.


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