Susan Moore Ervin was born in Minneapolis on June 27, 1927. She attended an all-women's high school, then an all-women's college, Vassar College, where she took courses in 11 subjects, among them courses in art history (her major), the social sciences, and several languages. Her undergraduate experiences had already impressed upon her a concern with women's issues, as she noted her good fortune in having had many excellent women professors at a liberal arts college -- while those women were not allowed entry at the time to the larger research universities.
After Vassar, Susan Ervin attended the University of Michigan. Her concern with social issues was foreshadowed in her choice of Michigan, where she wanted to work with disciples of Kurt Lewin to use social psychology to try to understand and solve important social problems that were in the forefront of concern in the early postwar years. Disappointed in this quest, but retaining her keen interest in social psychology, she became drawn to the problem of bilingualism by the dramatic personal experience of her bilingual friends, who reported a sense of double identity and dual personality. The issue of the psychological role of bilingualism for individuals became her dissertation topic ( Ervin, 1955, Ervin-Tripp, 1964).1
Her application to the Social Science Research Council to fund this research brought her to the attention of John Carroll, who in 1951 initiated a move to bring linguistics and psychology together. This connection resulted in two important influences on Ervin's life. First, she was privileged to play a role in the founding of psycholinguistics, taking part (as one of six graduate students) in a workshop sponsored by the SSRC in conjunction with the Linguistic Society of America at Indiana University in the summer of 1953. Ervin made contributions on language learning and bilingualism to the classic report that came out of that summer: Psycholinguistics: A Survey of Theory and Research Problems ( Osgood & Sebeok, 1954).
The second important result was that John Carroll invited Ervin to work on the Southwest Project on Comparative Psycholinguistics, a wide-ranging attempt to test the Whorf hypothesis by means of comparative research in six language communities: Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, Hopi-Tewa, Spanish, and English. At the outset, then, her formation was cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural, and cross-linguistic ( Ervin, Landar, & Horowitz, 1960; Ervin & Landar, 1963). In working with American Indian communities____________________