—Agnes N. O'Connell
My work on eminent women's lives, careers, and contributions to psychology has been a central focus of my professional life for more than a quarter of a century. The foundation for this work began to emerge while I was a doctoral student at Rutgers University (1971–1974) and was shaped by serving as chair of the Task Force on Women Doing Research for the Division of the Psychology of Women (now the Society for the Psychology of Women) of the American Psychological Association (APA). As head of this Task Force, I organized and chaired a series of workshops at regional and national conventions in 1976–1977. These workshops underscored the need to preserve the contributions of women to the field of psychology and the need to increase the visibility of strong, resilient role models for the acculturation of women into nontraditional occupational roles. The Task Force on Women Doing Research published the findings of these workshops in a report on “Gender-Specific Barriers to Research in Psychology” (O'Connell et al., 1978) and recommended that the stories of eminent women in psychology be made known.
Acting on this recommendation and in an effort to bring information about the lives of woinen in psychology to as many colleagues and students as quickly as possible, I organized and chaired a symposium in 1979 devoted to reflections of eminent women in the discipline. The first APA Symposium on Eminent Women in Psychology featured Mary Ainsworth, Margaret Hubbard Jones, Molly Harrower, and Mary Henle (their expanded and revised autobiographies are in Volume 1 of Models of Achievement).
It did not occur to me when initiating these symposia that I would be celebrating women's achievements and authoring and editing books about these achievements and the contexts in which they were made in