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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Eleanor Emmons Maccoby

Early Life

Little is known about Eleanor Emmons' childhood and early family life. She was born on May 15, 1917 in Tacoma, Washington (O'Connell, 1990). Her mother, Viva, was a musician and her father, Eugene, owned a millwork business (O'Connell, 1990). She was the second of four daughters (American Psychological Association [APA], 1989).

Education and Family

Having a family was extremely important to Emmons. She married Nathan Maccoby, a psychology graduate student, in her senior year (APA, 1989). The couple later went on to adopt three children. Maccoby did finish her education before deciding to have children. She earned her B.S. from the University of Washington in 1939 (O'Connell, 1990). In 1949, Maccoby earned her M.A. from the University of Michigan ("Eleanor Maccoby," 2004b). A year later, she earned her Ph.D. from the same university ("Eleanor Maccoby," 2004b).


Her first job was working with her husband. In 1940, the couple moved to Washington D.C. and both began working for the Department of Agriculture's Division of Program Surveys (APA, 1989). In this organization, she and other psychologists examined the impact of wartime programs (APA, 1989).

Maccoby was soon offered a position based on her own merits. In 1949, the couple moved to Boston when Nathan Maccoby was offered a position as professor at Boston University (APA, 1989). One year later, Robert Sears offered her a job, which she accepted, at Harvard University supervising fieldwork on the practices of child-rearing (APA, 1989). Sears later went to teach at Stanford University and Maccoby took over teaching his child psychology class at Harvard (APA, 1989). Later, the couple worked at the same university but in different departments. Both Maccobys began teaching at Stanford in 1958, and due to a nepotism rule at the university, the couple could not work in the same department (APA, 1989). Nathan Maccoby was hired on for the Communications Department, and she worked for the Psychology Department (APA, 1989).

Impact of Being Female

Becoming a mother certainly had an impact on Maccoby's career. She began to work only part-time after adopting her second child (APA, 1989). During this time, her teaching load remained the same, however she practically gave up doing research (APA, 2004c). Maccoby did not publish much for five to six years while tending to her young children (APA, 2004c). When she did begin researching again, she had to stay up late into the nights to fulfill both roles of mother and researcher (APA, 2004c).

Work and Research

Maccoby was a prolific researcher, and throughout her career she worked from many different perspectives. In her early education, she was a behaviorist and then a learning theorist (APA, 1989). Later, she worked from a cognitive-developmental theory (O'Connell, 1990). The last of her work reflected an interactionist perspective (APA, 1989). Maccoby performed instrumental work for three studies. In 1951, she conducted some of the first studies on the impact of television violence on children (O'Connell, 1990). Two years later, she co-wrote the book Patterns of Child Rearing with former associate, Sears, and Harry Levin (O'Connell, 1990). In 1957, Maccoby performed a study on identification with fictional movie characters (APA, 1989).

Maccoby began to write chapters and edit psychological works from a cognitive-developmental theory. She edited Readings for Social Psychology in 1956 (O'Connell, 1990). In 1964, she wrote "Effects of Mass Media" for the Review of Child Development and the "Developmental Psychology" section for the Annual Review of Psychology (O'Connell, 1990). Two years later, Maccoby edited and wrote a chapter titled "Sex Differences in Intellectual Functioning" for Development of Sex Differences (O'Connell, 1990). In this chapter, she explained the differences between the performances of girls and boys on intellectual tasks (O'Connell, 1990).

Maccoby continued performing studies and writing books. She conducted studies on the developmental changes in selective attention in 1967 (O'Connell, 1990). In this study, she examined why some individuals choose to retain some information while choosing to leave out other information. Three years later she wrote Experiments in Primary Education ("Eleanor Maccoby," 2004a).

In 1974, Maccoby co-wrote her most famous work, one that reflected an interactionist viewpoint. Psychology of Sex Differences was written with Carol Jacklin (APA, 1989). This book discussed gender role behavior as a combination of societal and self-socialization and biology (APA, 1989). In it, Maccoby examined the accuracy of the beliefs about the abilities of boys and girls. These beliefs included: girls have better verbal skills, boys have better spatial ability, boys are more aggressive, and boys are better at math (O'Connell, 1990). They established that these differences were fairly consistent ideas (O'Connell, 1990). This book was criticized for its conclusions and praised for its new ideas (O'Connell, 1990). Psychology of Sex Differences was important in shaping the gender studies field (O'Connell, 1990). It is still mentioned by the media and scholars and used in classrooms (O'Connell, 1990). The summary chapter from the book is used today in women's studies textbooks (O'Connell, 1990).

Years later, Maccoby focused even more on gender and child development issues. She wrote Sex Differentiation During Childhood Development in 1979 ("Eleanor Maccoby, 2004a). A year later, she wrote Social Development (APA, 1989). In it, she discussed the development of children in relation to prior socialization and the influence of their parents (O'Connell, 1990). In 1981, Maccoby launched a longitudinal investigation of gender differences in children during the first six years of development (APA, 1989).

During the 1990s, Maccoby, some would argue, did her most important work. In 1990, she performed a longitudinal investigation of families going through divorce (APA, 1989). This work prompted her to write two separate books. She co-wrote Dividing the Child with Robert Mnookin in 1992 (APA, 2004c). This book examined the effects of divorce on children (APA, 2004c). Four years later, she co-wrote the follow-up book Adolescents After Divorce with Christy Buchanan and Sanford Dornbusch (APA, 2004c). Lastly in 1998, she wrote an award-winning book, The Two Sexes, which investigated why females and males are emotionally and physically different (APA, 2004c).


Maccoby has been a part of and held high positions in many distinguished organizations throughout her life. During 1963 to 1966, she was on the governing council of the American Psychological Society ("Eleanor Maccoby," 2004b). She was the president of the American Psychological Association's Division of Developmental Psychology from 1971-1972 (O'Connell, 1990). The next year, Maccoby became the first woman chair of the Psychology Department at Stanford University and held this position until 1976 (O'Connell, 1990). From 1974 to 1975, she was the president of the Western Psychological Association (O'Connell, 1990). In 1977, she became vice chair of the Committee on Child Development and Public Policy for the National Research Council, and she held this position for the next six years (O'Connell, 1990). She served as the president for the Society for Research in Child Development from 1981-1983 (O'Connell, 1990). During 1984 to 1985, Maccoby was the chairwoman for the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Social Science ("Eleanor Maccoby," 2004b). Since 1997, she has been the president for the Consortium of Social Science Association ("Eleanor Maccoby," 2004b).


During the past 20 years, Maccoby has won many notable awards, including one named after herself. In 1979, she won the Barbara Kimball Browning Professorship at Stanford University (O'Connell, 1990). Two years later, she won the Stanford University Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching (O'Connell, 1990). Maccoby won the G. Stanley Hall Award of APA's Division of Developmental Psychology in 1982 (O'Connell, 1990). She won the American Educational Research Association Award for Distinguished Contributions in Educational Research two years later (O'Connell, 1990). In 1987, Maccoby won the Society for Research in Child Development Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Child Development (O'Connell, 1990). In 1988, she won the APA Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award (O'Connell, 1990). Maccoby was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1993 (National Academy of Sciences, 2004). Three years later, she won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Psychology Foundation ("Eleanor Maccoby," 2004b). Maccoby has a special honor that few psychologists share. In 2000, Maccoby won the APA's Eleanor Maccoby Book Award in Developmental Psychology (APA, 2004b). This was important and unique because the award was named after her and could only be received after an author wrote a book that had (or could have) a profound result on developmental psychology (APA, 2004a).


Although Maccoby was a developmental psychologist, the impact of her work was not limited to that division of psychology. She was influential in social and child psychology as well as developmental psychology (O'Connell, 1990). In addition, her work was influential in the gender studies field (O'Connell, 1990). In total, Maccoby's career spanned more than 50 years and produced eight books, two monographs, and more than 100 chapters and papers (O'Connell, 1990; "Eleanor Maccoby," 2004a). Lastly, without that work, the understanding psychologists now have of children's socialization, development, and differences in gender would not exist (O'Connell, 1990).


American Psychological Association. (1989). Eleanor E. Maccoby. American Psychologist, 44, 621-623.

American Psychological Association (2004a). The Eleanor Maccoby book award in developmental psychology. Retrieved September 21, 2004, from http://www.apa.org/about/division/div7awdcemb.html.

American Psychological Association (2004b). The Eleanor Maccoby book award in developmental psychology. Retrieved September 21, 2004, from http://www.apa.org/about/division/div7awdcemb.html.

American Psychological Association. (2004c). Women in science and technology career development profile: Eleanor Maccoby. Retrieved September 21, 2004, from http://www.apa.org/science/wist/maccoby.html.

Eleanor Maccoby. (2004a). Retrieved September 21, 2004, from http://www.amazon.com.

Eleanor Maccoby. (2004b). Retrieved September 21, 2004, from http://teach.psy.uga.edu/dept/student/parker/PsychWomen/Maccoby.htm.

National Academy of Sciences. (2004). Membership listing: Maccoby, Eleanor E. Retrieved September 21, 2004, from http://www4.nationalacademies.org/nas/naspub.nsf/(urllinks)/NAS 58N42W?opendocumen

O'Connell, A. N. & Russo, N. F. (Ed) (1990). Women in psychology: A bio bibliographic sourcebook. New York: Greenwood Press.

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