Grant Mary Whiton Calkins the Ph.D. she rightfully earned.
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Mary Whiton Calkins was the first American woman to complete the requirements for a Ph.D. in psychology. As a student at Harvard, she was considered brilliant by no less than the great American psychologists William James and Hugo Munsterberg. She successfully completed all of her course work and her doctoral dissertation and had a distinguished career as a teacher and researcher. She was the first female president of both the American Psychological Association and the American Philosophical Association. However, Harvard refused to officially recognize her as a student and grant her degree because she was a women. To this day, Harvard refuses to recognize her doctoral work and grant her the degree she earned. Lest anyone doubt that the contributions of women have been systematically undervalued, Calkin's defense was called by James "the most brilliant examination for the Ph.D. that we have had at Harvard." And yet, men who did lesser work were awarded their degrees. Posthumously granting Calkins her degree will not fully undo the injustice, but it will signal that we do not have to continue to allow unjust decisions to stand in perpetuity. Even in our own times, there are authors who argue that women are not as capable of men of being great thinkers. One has only to look at the writings of Charles Murray to see a widely read author who claims virtually no great intellectual contributions have been made by women. The historical suppression and undervaluing of women's intellectual contributions has been damaging and has skewed our collective perception of history. By properly recognizing Calkins for her work, Harvard will send a message that it acknowledges the historical devaluing of female scientists and thinkers and that it is willing to take steps to allow female scholars to take their rightful place in history. Mary Whiton Calkins deserves to be known as Dr. Mary Whiton Calkins.
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