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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Margaret Naumburg and Florence Cane

Margaret Naumburg was first an educator, with undergraduate work done at Vassar and Barnard Colleges. She did Graduate studies with John Dewey at Columbia, as well as Beatrice and Sidney Webb at the London School of Economics. Later Margaret studied with F. Mathius Alexander in England, Dr. William Brown at Oxford, Dr. William McDougall, and Maria Montessori in Italy. Psychology, parapsychology, and physical coordination are some areas that these studies were in. She took her psychological and educational backgrounds to create what would become art therapy.

Naumburg was born in 1890. She expressed that as a child she felt constrained and miserable. Her son, Thomas Frank (1983) mentions that "perhaps her feeling both misunderstood and without opportunity to share her inner life during these early years gave her a beginning motivation to battle for less restrictive educational approaches focused on the individual child's emotional needs. And perhaps those early restrictive experiences with her own parents influenced her ultimate approach to art therapy."

In early adulthood Naumburg and author-husband, Waldo Frank lived and worked in New York City. They shared a circle of friends and colleagues comprised of many elite creators of the time. This includes people such as painter Georgia O'Keeffe, poet John Marin, and film star Charlie Chaplin.

In 1914 Margaret Naumburg started what she called the "Children's School". She later renamed it the Walden School. She wanted to practice her belief that "the emotional development of children, fostered through encouragement of spontaneous creative expression and self-motivated learning, should take precedence over the traditional intellectual approach to the teaching of a standardized curriculum.", as said by Thomas Frank (1983). Her psychoanalytic training influenced her educational methods. At the Walden School, all teachers were encouraged to see a psychoanalyst personally.

In 1920, Naumburg invited her sister Florence Cane to teach at the Walden School after she had criticized the way that art was being taught there. Margaret hired faculty according to different principles than were typical of the time. The faculty she hired often did not even have education degrees.

In the early 1920's Naumburg resigned as director from Walden and had a son shortly after. Three years later she divorced Waldo Frank. In 1928 she published her first book, which was based on her experience with the Walden School called The Child and the World.

Margaret Naumburg did much of her personal therapy with Dr. Beatrice Hinkle, who was a Jungian. Later she did more personal analysis with Dr. A. A. Brill, a Freudian. Freud, Jung, and Harry Stack Sullivan were all theorists who influenced her work. Naumburg was also interested in Eastern Philosophy, the occult, psychodrama, parapsychology, modern surrealist art, and primitive art. Those interests played a role in the development of her theories as well.

From 1930 on she concerned herself primarily with developing art therapy technique and moved away from progressive education. Naumburg devoted much of her life to the establishment of art therapy as a discipline, which psychiatry as a field, really opposed. "She was forever pointing out that art therapy, with its use of symbolic language and imagery, was often a more effective road to the unconscious than the usual verbal approach of psychoanalysis and dynamic psychotherapy", Thomas Frank (1983).

Naumburg was a poet and a playwright in addition to being an academic writer. Academically speaking, she wrote numerous papers and a total of five books in her life. From 1941-1947 she researched under Dr. Nolan D. C. Lewis at the New York Psychiatric Institute. Two books that she wrote stemmed from this research: Studies of the "Free" Art Expression of Behavior Problem Children and Adolescents as a Means of Diagnosis and Therapy (1947) and Schizophrenic Art: Its Meaning in Psychotherapy (1950). In 1953 Naumburg published Psychoneurotic Art and in 1966 she published Dynamically Oriented Art Therapy.

Margaret Naumburg taught at New York University into her eighties. She facilitated the beginning of art therapy instruction at the undergraduate level. A graduate program for art therapy was not started until 1969. Margaret Naumburg never held a teaching position on graduate level.

Florence Cane was born in 1882 and died in 1952. She was the second oldest child out of four siblings. Margaret was younger than her. As a child, Cane was outgoing and friendly. At the age of eight she started a diary, which she titled "Things My Mother Does to Me That I Won't Do To My Children." Because of her love for making things as a child, she decided early on to be an art teacher. Her experience with teachers who inhibited her creativity and also with those who encouraged it gave her the idea to learn more about what made a good art teacher. During the time in which Cane was a child the use of feelings as a source for creative art making was not popular among art teachers.

Florence believed that the person and the product (art) should be integrated. Movement, feeling, and thought were functions that combined help one achieve this integration. Daughter Mary Cane Robinson said of her mother, "Florence developed her style, her method, from an intuitive search for ways to stimulate the creative process in each person she was teaching; then she put it into a form that she could convey to others" (1983).

Cane taught privately in her own home in addition to teaching at the Walden School. She also lectured to teachers groups and for a few years had a school of her own in Rockefeller Center. Later, she became the director of art for the Counseling Centre for Gifted Children at New York University. Cane held this position for fourteen years.

Florence Cane wrote The Artist in Each of Us in 1951. This is the only book she published. She was known as an open, positive, and eager woman. She was a suffragette and really worked for women's causes.

Cane and her husband, Melville both did personal therapy with Jungian analyst Dr. Beatrice Hinkle. They were quite influenced by the philosophy of George Gurdjieff. One aspect of this philosophy was the term "essence"; which was to mean the intrinsic, unchanging part of a person. Florence used drawing and painting as a means to help her students to find their "essence".

Cane stressed physical health. She believed that with a higher state of consciousness one could move beyond driven behavior to a state in which one could be free to choose. Like her sister, Cane was influenced by Eastern thought and philosophy. Florence had stated "the direction of my teaching has been towards the liberation and growth of the child's soul through play and work and self-discipline involved in painting" (Cane, 1932 p42.)

The work of Florence Cane and Margaret Naumburg is the basis on which all modern therapeutic art theories and practices are built. They significantly contributed to the fields of art therapy and art education. When Naumburg stopped teaching and started to concentrate on art therapy, she still stressed to art educators the importance of creativity, the intuitive, the nonverbal, and the unconscious. It has been speculated that tensions existed between the two sisters, but that this tension probably caused them both to be more productive.


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