A History of Developmental Psychology in Autobiography

By Dennis Thompson; John D. Hogano | Go to book overview
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Louise Bates Ames

Birth, Family Background, Early Years

I was born in Portland, Maine, in 1908, the oldest child of Samuel L. and Annie E. Bates. I had two brothers, John and Silas. Looking back, I appreciate that I must have had a rather unusually privileged childhood -- as of course did many who grew up in that time and place.

Life was for the most part, for many of us, serene and secure. The area of Portland in which I lived (Deering) housed an extremely homogeneous population mostly WASPs. In fact, at our elementary school a very large proportion of the children (some said as high as 75 percent) had parents who had attended the same school. The major diversity actually seemed to be a matter of what church one attended, and most people did belong to one church or another.

Ours was a very close-knit neighborhood. School, church, and shopping areas all were within walking distance, and "everybody" knew everybody. This may in part have accounted for the good behavior of the children -- anyone attempting to get away with anything was inevitably spotted by some familiar adult.

My father, Judge Samuel L. Bates, was a very firm disciplinarian. We accepted this, in fact took it for granted, since we admired him vastly. We thought he knew everything and could solve any problem. This notion was shared by many people in town, and to some extent I basked in my father's reflected glory. "Oh! Judge Bates's daughter," people would say, as later they might comment, "Yes, she works with Dr. Gesell!"

Our family atmosphere was more intellectual than emotional. Ours was a bookish household. We spent many a pleasant evening by the fire, our parents reading to us, until, or even after, we were able to read for ourselves. Also, since my father was a devoted naturalist and there were plenty of woods available, both in Portland and in South Brooksville, where we spent summer vacations, we spent a good deal of time with him in the woods learning about trees and flowers.

Our lives flowed along rather evenly, with the understanding that we would do well in school and eventually go to college and on to professional lives. I was in the fifth grade when the notion hit me that it would really be fun to be a secretary, but since I would be going on to college I supposed I should choose a profession. I chose law, and from then on during summer vacations spent a good deal of time in my father's office.

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