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.

For information about referencing this paper - Click Here

June Etta Downey

According to Robert McHenry's book "Famous American Women: A Biographical Dictionary from Colonial Times to the Present" (1980), June Etta Downey was "A gifted and often ingenious experimenter" (107). Yet, for most of the scholars of Wyoming, she was much more than that. She was one of the few female eminences in the field of psychology, and a pioneer of the fundamental process of women's professional development in the past century.

Born in Laramie, Wyoming on July 13, 1875, Downey developed one of the most interesting, and controversial, tests about personality which she titled "The Will Temperament and Its Testing" (1924). This report was her attempt to make clinical research of aspects of personality other than intelligence (McHenry 1980). Although the report presented several limitations itself, it brought the attention of several influential psychology's exponents. Downey, like many other females pursuing professional careers, had to face many odds in order to achieve her goals. In early 1900's the image of a professional woman was an unusual sight, particularly in a small place like Laramie. Most professional females were destined to become school teachers if they were not married. Downey avoided marriage in order to continue her higher education and being free to work in the field she always wanted, experimental psychology. She graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1895 and took a job as school teacher during that year. Soon she moved to Chicago to complete her educational goals. At the University of Chicago, Downey was granted with a master's degree in both psychology and philosophy in 1898 (James, E. & James, J. 1971). A year later she was selected to be a member of the faculty of the University of Wyoming where she taught English and philosophy's courses.

Like Margaret Washburn, Downey was also a protegee of the famous Edward Bradford Titchener at Cornell University in 1901 where she became one of the main educators. She finally achieved her doctorate in the University of Chicago in 1908. June Etta Downey was also very intrigued by motor behavior, especially the varying aspects of writing, including graphology, aesthetics, and personality (Zusne 1984). Her extreme interest for these matters pushed her to write many reflective and investigative papers such as "Graphology and Psychology of Handwriting" in 1919, "Plots and Personalities" in 1922, "Creative Imagination: Studies in the Psychology of Literature" in 1929, and a book of experimental psychology for younger readers called "The Kingdom of the Mind" in 1927 (McHenry 1980). June Etta Downey died in Trenton, New Jersey, on October 11, 1932.


Back to Women's Page