Female Pioneers in the Field of Mental Health

Female Pioneers in the Field of Mental Health

March is Women’s History Month and for many, it represents a time to reflect and celebrate the achievements women have made over the course of history. Among these achievements is the establishment of a voice and a place in the world of medicine and mental health.

It wasn’t until the late 20th century that people began to recognize and address women’s mental health needs. Many important female mental health advocates paved the way for women today and this month is the perfect time to recognize their pioneering efforts.

Anna Freud

“I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time.”

Sigmund Freud’s name is synonymous with psychology today, but did you also know that his daughter was a psychologist? Her work in Vienna and London after leaving Austria during World War II was crucial for the development of children’s mental health.

Nellie Bly

“I have never written a word that did not come from my heart. I never shall.”

Nellie Bly, an investigative journalist, posed as a psychiatric patient in order to become admitted to a New York State asylum. Her goal was to expose the institution for its gross mistreatment of patients and terrible conditions. After 10 days as an inpatient, she wrote about her experience for New York World, and this report became a catalyst for national mental health care reform.

Letta Stetter Hollingworth

“How did I come to be included in this album of women of achievement? I do not know. I was intellectually curious, I worked hard, I was honest except for those minor benign chicaneries which are occasionally necessary when authority is stupid.”

Known for her intelligence and witty sense of humor, Hollingworth was one of the early advocates of the field of psychology in the United States. Her work challenged the long standing belief that during the menstruation cycle, women’s intellectual ability was negatively impacted. She demonstrated that the average woman has the same mental capacity as the average man, each and every day of the month.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross

“My patients taught me not how to die, but how to live.”

Kubler Ross was born in Switzerland and served as a psychiatrist in World War II. She was one of the first to study terminally ill patients and she developed a theory on grief that is still used as a framework for treatment today. Her research and clinical work destigmatized death and grief in a way that had never been done before.

While we highlighted the work of these four important women, there are many more who have made substantial impacts on the mental health field, and continue to do so. We appreciate each and every one of them.  Happy Women’s History Month – from CBT Westport.