Margaret Floy Washburn
Karl M. Dallenbach
Margaret Floy Washburn, whose services to this JOURNAL extended over a period of thirty-six years (as coöperating editor from 1903-1925 and co-editor since 1926), died after a long illness at Poughkeepsie, New York, on the afternoon of October 29, 1939. She was in her sixty-ninth year, having been born to Rev. Francis and Elizabeth Floy (Davis) Wash-burn on July 25, 1871, in Harlem, New York City. Her last illness dated from March 18, 1937, when she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.
Professor Washburn's ancestry, as she relates in the History of Psychology in Autobiography, were Dutch and English: Long Island and Westchester County Quakers and Maryland Cavaliers, with a dash of Connecticut Yankee. With the exception of one great-grandparent, Michael Floy, all of her ancestors were in America before 1720. Michael Floy, after whom she was named, came from Devonshire, England. A successful florist and nurseryman, he founded, upon the Harlem farm where she was born and where she passed her childhood, the family fortune "which enabled me," she writes, "to finish my professional training without having to earn my own living."
Professor Washburn was an only child, and the first eight years of her life were spent in association with adults amid the flowers and gardens of the ancestral home. She nowhere mentions childhood companions of her own age, but writes instead of the "blessed privilege of an only child to be undisturbed when at leisure." She was as a consequence precocious and self-sufficient, an omnivorous reader as a child and throughout her
( 2) life. Though she did not enter school until she was seven years of age, she had learned to read and to write long before. Her advancement, when she did enter school, was rapid. Her first school was private—conducted in the home of a retired Presbyterian minister by his three accomplished daughters. In a year and a half with these teachers she learned the rudiments of mathematics and acquired a good foundation in French, German, and music. When she was nine years of age her father entered the Episcopal ministry and accepted a charge at Walden, a village in Orange County, New York. Here her school, though still a private one, was housed like a district school in a single-room building, and was poorly conducted. Her time was not fully occupied and she turned in her leisure to the writing of stories.
When she was eleven years old, her father was called to the rectorship of the Episcopal Church in Kingston, New York. There for the first time she attended the public schools. Her training had been good, hence her progress was rapid. She entered high school at twelve years of age and was graduated in June, 1886, at fifteen. The following fall found her at Vassar College. Because of the lack of Latin and French, which she had not studied since her earliest school days, her first year was spent in the preparatory department. Then followed four years in the College from which she was graduated in 1891 with an abiding interest in science and philosophy.
Having learned, during her senior year, of Cattell's newly established laboratory of psychology at Columbia University, she determined to become his pupil. Though women were not admitted to graduate study at Columbia in those days, she persevered, characteristically, in her determination and after three months of effort she was by special dispensation of the trustees permitted to register in Cattell's classes as a "hearer." Thus she was a pioneer in the struggle for equal educational opportunities for women. Despite her special status, Cattell treated her as a regular student and she attended his lectures and seminary and worked in his laboratory along with the men. From him she acquired her interest in psychology and the inspiration to make it a life career.
At the end of that year, since Cattell had no scholarships available for women, she applied at his suggestion to the newly established Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell University. A scholarship was granted her and in the fall of 1892 she went to Cornell. She found the Sage School an inspiring place to work. The men on the faculty were young and enthusiastic; all were beginning, as time has shown, highly successful careers.
( 3) She majored in psychology with Titchener, who, fresh from Leipzig, had joined the Cornell staff that fall; and minored in ethics with Schurman and in philosophy with Albee, Hammond, and Thilly. After a year at Cornell, Vassar College awarded her in 1893 an M.A. degree inabsentia for work done under Titchener. A year later, in June, 1894, she obtained her Ph.D. degree from Cornell—the first Ph.D. that Titchener recommended. Her doctoral dissertation, Ueber den Einfluss der Gesichtsassociation auf die Raumwahrnehmung der Haut, was published in Wundt's Philosophische Studien—the first foreign study to appear there.
In the fall following her doctorate she went to Wells College as Professor of Psychology, Philosophy, and Ethics. She remained there six years, keeping up her contacts with Cornell by weekly visits to use the library and to attend seminaries and lectures of interest. Then followed two years (1900-1902) at Cornell as Warden of Sage College—that is, head resident of the women's dormitory—and, during the second year, as Lecturer in Psychology. She gave two courses in Titchener's department: social psychology, based on Wundt's Völkerpsychologie; and animal psychology, which was to remain a life-long interest. Finding the duties of Warden—"concerning oneself with the behavior of other people," as she described them—highly uncongenial, she accepted at the end of two years (in 1902) the offer of an Assistant Professorship with full charge of the Department of Psychology at the University of Cincinnati. Though conditions there were to her liking, she could not resist a call from her Alma Mater, and the fall of 1903 found her back at Vassar College as Associate Professor of Philosophy. At first her duties were divided between psychology and philosophy, but in 1908 the subjects were separated and she became Professor of Psychology and head of the newly created department. She remained at Vassar the rest of her life: when retired as Emeritus Professor of Psychology in June 1937 she was already in her last illness.
Miss Washburn was an indefatigable and persistent worker. Except for the summers of 1913-1917 ', when she taught psychology in the summer sessions of Columbia University; the spring of 1928 when, on her only sabbatical leave, she took â1Mediterranean cruise; and the summers of 1929 and 1932 during which she traveled to England and Copenhagen—she never was far nor long away from her work in her laboratory and study at Poughkeepsie. That she was an inspiring teacher is evidenced by the growth of her department, by the many studies that were published by the girls from her laboratory, and by the number of her students who continued in psychology. Hers was strictly an undergraduate department,
( 4) for she was, as far as graduate study was concerned, a proponent of co-education. "I deprecate," she wrote in her autobiography, "graduate study for women at any but coeducational universities." True to this conviction, she encouraged her students to go to such schools for their final training. Many did, and wherever they went—to California, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard (Radcliffe), Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Yale—they made splendid records. She was also a kindly teacher, revered and beloved by the various generations of students working with her, as at-tested by the fact that they presented her in June 1928, on the completion of twenty-five years of service to Vassar College, with a purse containing a considerable sum of money. The donors hoped that she would use the money for her own pleasure—for books and travel; instead she disbursed it as scholarship-aids for students of psychology—for undergraduates at Vassar or Vassar graduates taking advanced work elsewhere.
Miss Washburn's contributions and services to psychology were many and outstanding. Besides publishing over 200 scientific articles and re-views, she translated Wundt's Ethical Systems, 1897, and wrote two books: The Animal Mind, ' 1908 ; and Movement and Mental Imagery, 1916. The first of these books went through three more editions—1917, 1926, and 1936—every one thoroughly rewritten and enlarged. The first edition of this book was translated in 1918 in Japanese. The second book, a development of her article in G. Stanley Hall's Festschrift in 1903, marked her break with Titchenerian doctrine and her espousal of the motor theory of consciousness for which she was thereafter widely known. Between 1905 and 1938, she published sixty-eight studies from the Vassar Psychological Laboratory—an undergraduate laboratory, be it remembered—with 117 students as joint authors. In all the studies she formulated the problems and set the method and procedure. After these matters were carefully explained, the students collected and worked up the data under her super-vision and direction, and then she wrote up the experiment. During the same period she also gave unsparingly of her time and effort to editorial work. In addition to her editorship of this JOURNAL, she was cooperating editor of the Psychological Bulletin, 1909-1915 ; associate editor of the Journal of Animal Behavior, 1911-1917; advisory editor of the Psychological Review, 1916-1930; and associate editor of the Journal of Comparative Psychology, 1921-1935.
In recognition of her services to psychology she received the highest honors and awards at the disposal of her confrères. In 1919-1920, when the Division of Psychology and Anthropology of the National Research Council was formed, she was a representative of psychology and again in 1925-
( 5) -1928. In 1921, she was president of the American Psychological Association; that same year, she *as awarded a prize of $500 by the Edison Phonograph Company for the best research on the effects of music—a study of "The Emotional Effects of Instrumental Music" in collaboration with a colleague in the Department of Music at Vassar. In 1927 she was elected vice-president and chairman of Section I (Psychology) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and also was the recipient of a Festschrift and of an honorary degree of D. Sc. The Festschrift, volume 39 of this JOURNAL, was dedicated to her by its authors, thirty-two colleagues from the various editorial boards upon which she had served, "in recognition of thirty-three years of distinguished service to psychology." The degree, honoris causa, was conferred upon her by Wittenberg College during the International Symposium of Feeling and Emotion that was held there at the dedication of the new psychological laboratory. In 1929 she was elected to the International Committee on Psychology—the governing body of the International Congresses—and to the Society of Experimental Psychologists; and, in 1931, to membership in the National Academy of' Sciences—the second woman to receive that honor, Dr. Florence Sabin, the anatomist and pathologist, having been elected before her. In this same year, 1931, she was president of the New York Branch of the American Psychological Association (now the Eastern Psychological Association) and chairman of the Society of Experimental Psychologists. In 1932, she was the U.S. delegate to the International Congress of Psychology in Copenhagen. She was also a member of the American Philosophical Society, the National Institute of Psychology, the New York Academy of Sciences, Sigma Xi and Phi Kappa Phi.
In addition, she served in many important committees and conferences; chairman of the committee of the American Psychological Association that negotiated the purchase and transfer of the Psychological Review Publications from Professor Howard C. Warren to the Association; chairman of the sub-committee of the Division of Psychology and Anthropology of the National Research Council that secured a large subsidy from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Foundation for the publication of the Psychological Abstracts; chairman of the A.P.A. committee for the certification of consulting psychologists; chairman of the N.R.C. committee on the experimental investigation of emotion; and a member of the Wittenberg conference on feeling and emotion, of the Carlisle conference of experimental psychologists, and of the Washington conference of psychological editors.
Her death removes from American Psychology one of the most active and honored members of the Fach. Psychology will not see her like again.
KARL M. DALLENBACH