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American Women: Resources from the Manuscript Collections

Mental Health

Sigmund and Anna Freud on holiday in the Dolomites, Italy. 1913. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Edward and Doris Bernays were masterful at using psychology in their public relations campaigns, at times manipulating consumers with a knowledge of human behavior that rivaled that of Edward's uncle, noted psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (45,000 items; 1810-1990), whose papers are also held by the division. In fact, the division holds numerous psychoanalytical collections documenting women's roles as both patients and practitioners in this field. These collections, some of which are currently restricted, generally include personal and professional correspondence, patient case files, research findings, and drafts of scientific papers. Among the women psychoanalysts are:

  • Sigmund Freud's daughter Anna Freud (1895-1982), an expert in the field of child analysis (60,000 items; 1880-1988; bulk 1946-82);
  • French-born psychoanalyst Princess Marie Bonaparte (1882-1962), whose papers include records of her own analysis and dreams (3,300 items; 1913-61);
  • Austrian-born Berta Bornstein (1900?-1971), one of the first Freudian child psychoanalysts practicing in the United States (21,000 items; 1933-71; bulk 1945-70);
  • Edith Jacobson (1897-1978), an authority on mental depression, who drawing from her own experiences in Nazi Germany, became an expert on the psychological effects of imprisonment on female political prisoners (2,800 items; 1922-77);
  • Muriel Gardiner (1901-1985), best known as the psychoanalyst of Sergius Pankejeff, the “Wolf-Man” of Freudian analysis (3,000 items; 1890-1986; bulk 1946-84);
  • Noted New York analyst Elisabeth R. Geleerd (1909-1969), who researched and wrote on a variety of topics, especially in the areas of child analysis and educational standards for analysts (6,500 items; 1927-69; bulk 1945-69); and
  • German émigrés Paula Elkisch (725 items; 1924-78; bulk 1947-78), Frieda Fromm-Reichmann (2,025 items; 1922-85), and Edith Weigert (16 items; 1935-71).
  • Elizabeth Severn (born Leota Brown in 1879; died 1959), psychotherapist, author, and psychoanalytic patient of Sándor Ferenczi (5,600 items and 209 digital files; 1880-1994; bulk 1910-1992.

Women's historians should not limit themselves to the papers of women psychoanalysts, however. Much can be gained by consulting the papers of leading male practitioners, including for example, the papers of Karl Abraham (500 items; 1907-26), which consist chiefly of correspondence between Abraham and Sigmund Freud relating to their respective views on sexual trauma and fantasy, hysteria, and neuroses.

Complementing the division's many psychoanalytical collections are the papers of numerous psychologists, including several women whose focus was on children's mental health. Frances G. Wickes (1875-1967), one of the primary representatives of the Jungian school of psychology in the United States, was a pioneer in therapeutic work with disturbed children. Her papers (4,000 items; 1897-1968; bulk 1939-68) include patient files and research papers, among them materials for her publications Inner World of Childhood (1927) and Inner World of Man (1938). Additional Wickes material may be found in the papers of her literary executor, poet Muriel Rukeyser.

Louise Bates Ames (1908-1996), child psychologist, author, and cofounder and codirector of the Gesell Institute of Child Development, devoted her entire life to analyzing and explaining child behavior. She was an early proponent of Rorschach testing, and her lectures, television appearances, and newspaper column “Child Behavior” (later “Parents Ask”), which she wrote from 1951 to 1973, established her as an authority on child development. Her papers (14,000 items; 1915-89; bulk 1950-75) also include those of her associate Frances Lillian Ilg (1902-1982), and additional material on both Ilg and Ames may be found in the Arnold Gesell Papers (90,000 items; 1870-1971; bulk 1910-50).

The papers of educators and psychologists Mamie Phipps Clark (1917-1983) and her husband Kenneth Bancroft Clark (168,500 items; 1897-1994; bulk 1935-90) document their contributions to the civil rights movement and to providing equal educational opportunities for blacks. They studied the psychological effects of racial discrimination, and their findings were used in the legal fight for school desegregation.

As in the case of psychoanalysts, the papers of male psychologists are also of value to women's historians, since many of these men helped to shape society's opinions about women. James McKeen Cattell (49,000 items; 1835-1948; bulk 1896-1948) was an editor and psychology professor who wrote about various family and women's issues, including such articles and speeches as “The Causes of the Declining Birth Rate” (undated draft) and “The Declining Family and Its Causes” (1914). Similarly, educator and psychologist Edward L. Thorndike (100 items; 1900-1938) lectured about careers for college women and wrote articles titled “The Feminization of American Education” (undated draft) and “The Failure of College Women to Marry” (undated newspaper article).

Psychologists and psychoanalysts are not the only ones to have expressed concern about children's mental health. Jeannette Ridlon Piccard (1895-1981), a chemist by training who is best known for her accomplishments as a balloonist and aerospace consultant, also worked with emotionally disturbed children. Her papers, part of the Piccard Family collection (73,000 items; ca. 1470-1983; bulk 1926-83), touch on all aspects of her amazingly diverse life, including her aeronautical achievements, her firm commitment to women's rights, and her activities as one of the first women Episcopal priests, after her ordination in 1974.

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.