Problematic women: psychology, gender, and health in North America




history, health, psychology, feminism, gender


Taking its cue from the medical field, psychology has long been curious about the relationship between biological sex and illness just as societies have long been interested in regulating women’s bodies. From 19th Century gender differences scholarship through 20th century activism this article introduces the gendered history of psychology and health. Offering a general overview of the past and more recent feminist present within a North American framework. Taking as its base foundation the intellectual shifts away from an exclusively individualistic lens towards one that now emphasizes systems and society; referred to as the difference between a “women-as-problem” and a “women-in-context” approach. Topics addressed include early gender differences scholarship, mental health costs and gendered violence; dual impact of the paradigms of masculinity, perversity in medicating and treating a woman’s psychological condition which result from living in a patriarchal societies; constructs of female sexual dysfunction, and more. We encourage South American scholars to take up the call to more thoroughly explore and expand on the histories of gendered health and psychology within regional and historical time sensitive contexts.

Biografia do Autor

Elissa N. Rodkey, Crandall University, Moncton, New Brunswick

Elissa N. Rodkey teaches psychology at Crandall University in New Brunswick, Canada. She was trained at York University, where her research focused on women in the history of psychology, such as Eleanor Gibson, Gertrude Stein, and Milicent Shinn. Her dissertation featured the emotion theorist Magda Arnold, whose mid-career conversion to Catholicism provides an opportunity for analysis of the relationship between psychology and religion at the mid-20th century. Elissa uses a feminist framework to analyze the experiences of marginalized psychologists, such as the significance of non-academic networks or communities (e.g. friends, families, and religious groups) for the such psychologists' encouragement and intellectual growth. She also draws on feminist critiques of psychology to illuminate episodes of disciplinary failure, such as the history of unrecognized infant pain and the ethical lapses of the American Psychological Association outlined in the Hoffman Report.

Kelli Vaughn-Johnson, York University

Kelli Vaughn-Johnson was a doctoral student in the Historical, Theoretical, and Critical Studies of Psychology program at York University in Toronto, Ontario at the time of this writing. She is the former News and Notes Editor for History of Psychology and is the current Social Media Director for the Psychology’s Feminist Voices project (; a multimedia internet archive devoted to the women of psychology's past and the diverse voices of contemporary feminist psychologists.  Her research areas include the life and work of American Psychologist Lillien Jane Martin, the history of women in psychology and historical and contemporary constructions of gender, sexuality, and adult development.


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Como Citar

N. Rodkey, E., & Vaughn-Johnson, K. (2018). Problematic women: psychology, gender, and health in North America. Revista Psicologia E Saúde, 10(3), 71–85.