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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by Adrian Weiss, Webster University


Florence Levin Denmark was born on January 28, 1931 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her father, Morris Levin was an attorney, and her mother Minna, was a musician. Florence grew up living with her older sister, her grandparents, and aunts and uncles. Florence credits her mother for helping her succeed in her accomplishments. Florence was an A student, in the honor society, and graduated class valedictorian in1948. She wrote the sports column for her high school newspaper. Florence considered it as a career, but felt discouraged by the lack of jobs available for women in the field at the time (Paludi and Russo 1990).

Florence went to the Women's College of the University of Pennsylvania. She majored in history at first. She became interested in psychology when she took an introductory class. Florence later became a double major. She was accepted into Phi Beta Kappa. Her history thesis was on Amelia Bloomer, and her psychology thesis was on research she did on gender and leadership styles. In 1952, she graduated with honors in both departments with an A.B. She was the first student at the college to receive honors in two majors (Denmark 1988).

In 1953, she began graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. She earned an A.M. in psychology, and a Ph.D. in social psychology in 1958. After graduate school, Florence moved to New York City. She took a position at the Queens College of the City University of New York as an adjunct professor. CUNY had a counseling center, and Florence worked there as well.

It was during this time that Florence began studies with her colleague Marcia Guttentag. They did work in areas like the effects of college on women, effects of psychiatric labeling of immigrants, and the effects of racial integration in preschool programs (Denmark and Guttentag 1964, 1966, 1967, 1969).

In 1964, Denmark went to CUNY's Hunter College in the Bronx. She was eventually promoted to full professor. She was appointed Hunter's Graduate Center where she was instrumental in creating the first Doctoral level seminar on the psychology of women. Florence continued her work on prejudice and discrimination against women. She began to research topics relevant to women in the field of psychology, and the psychology of women (Paludi and Russo 1983).

In 1953 Florence Levin married Stanley Denmark, an orthodontist. They had three children. They divorced, and she later married Robert Wesner, a publisher who was divorced with three children as well.


Florence served for 1968 to 1970 as the first director of SEEK, Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge. SEEK was formed to aid high school students of poverty for find psychology programs in colleges across the country.

Florence is considered to be the pioneer in the psychology of women. With her leadership, psychology of women became a respected and well-recognized field of study. Her research became the guideline of new programs popping up in colleges across the country. Denmark documented cases of discrimination and the disadvantaged status of women in psychology. Florence wrote many papers on the role of women in the history of psychology, so their many contributions would not be forgotten In 1975, she and Julia Sherman chaired the first conference on psychological research on women.

Florence, as stated before, worked on such topics as racial integration in preschool, and the effects of college on women. She developed curriculum on the psychology of women. Denmark was in fact the first to integrate psychology of women in introductory psychology courses. In 1983, she published the first widely used textbook called Women's Choices, Women's Realities. Her research has fueled many psychology departments to create a psychology of women curriculum. Florence was successful in convincing the American Psychological Association to create its 35th division-the Psychology of Women (1973). In 1969, she helped to found the Association for Women in Psychology. In 1976, she served as an editor to the Psychology of Women Quarterly. Florence also helped edit the journal Sex Roles (est.. 1975).

In 1981, Florence established the International Interdisciplinary Congress on Women in Israel. She continued to serve on the congress board, and in 1990, Hunter College was chosen as the next site. From 1980 to 1981, Florence Denmark served as the APA's fifth woman president. At this time she also served as president of Psi Chi, the psychology honor society. Her presidencies led to a cooperation between the two organizations. She advocated increased support of ethnic minorities and women. An APA convention symposium was devoted to autobiographical presentations by eminent women psychologists (Paludi and Russo 1990).

From 1971 to 1984 Florence served as an associated editor for the International Journal of Group Tensions. From 1985 to 1988, she was on the committee for Lesbian and Gay Concerns.

Florence Denmark has received many awards and honorary degrees for her numerous contributions in every area she worked. The APA's committee on women in psychology gave her its Distinguished Leader Award. She was recognized in 1983 as APA division 35's Outstanding Leader. In 1986, she received the Association of Women Psychologists Distinguished Career Award for her contributions to mentoring, policy, and scholarship. In 1980, the Association for Women in Science recognized her as an Outstanding Woman in Science.

Florence Denmark has made it possible for me take college courses (like the one creating this website) on women in psychology and other related social sciences. Her feminism and devotion to women in the field of psychology should never be forgotten. Like many projects created by her, may this one keep her legacy, and others' alive and strong.


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