Causes for awareness

Recognizing women's history, girls and women in sports and teen dating violence.

March: Women’s History Month, Dr. Ruth Winifred Howard (1900-1997)

Ruth Howard, PhD (credit: unknown) In observance of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March), Psych-E recognizes Dr. Ruth Winifred Howard, the first African American1 woman to earn a doctorate degree in Psychology.

Dr. Howard received her PhD in Psychology and Child Development from the University of Minnesota in 1934. She had a long career that encompassed social work, nursing education, and developmental and clinical psychology (Saltzman, 2001). Born in 1900, Howard was the youngest of eight children. Her father was a Protestant minister whose position in the community and attitude toward others shaped Dr. Howard’s desire to work with people (Young, 2010). In 1921, she received her BS in Social Work from Simmons College in Boston.

Her first job as a social worker was with the Cleveland Urban League as a counselor and community program coordinator. It was, she wrote, an education in social psychology (Saltzman, 2001). Dr. Howard then took a position with Cleveland’s Child Welfare Agency with a focus on at-risk children. Her work with members of other agencies in the city exposed a lack of understanding and empathy for diverse cultural groups. This, Howard believed, was a barrier to understanding the feelings, attitudes and behaviors of the children (Young, 2001). Because of her experience working in the Child Welfare Agency she decided to study psychology. Through a Laura Spelman Rockefeller Fellowship for Parent Education, Howard studied at Columbia University’s Teachers College and School of Social Work before transferring to the University of Minnesota where she completed her doctorate.

Howard was active in numerous professional and community organizations; she helped organize the National Association of College Women, and joined the American Psychological Association, the International Psychological Association, the International Council of Women Psychologists, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and the Friends of the Mentally Ill. Additionally, Howard was a longtime volunteer for the Young Women’s Christian Association and Bartelme Homes (Saltzman, 2001).

Howard married fellow psychologist, Dr. Albert Beckham, upon her graduation from the University of Minnesota. They opened a private practice together in Chicago. “Dr. Howard characterized the marriage as happy and bonded by both the personal and the professional,” (Young, 2010). After the death of her husband in 1964, Howard stayed in Chicago continuing her private practice work in addition to working as a psychologist at the McKinley Center for Retarded Children (1964-1966), at Worthington and Hurst Psychological Consultants (1966-1968), and at the Chicago Board of Health, Mental Health Division (1968-1972). She would credit women psychologists with “contributing to human progress through the discipline of psychology and noted that so-called minority groups have also shared in this progress” (Saltzman, 2001). Ruth Howard died on February 12, 1997 in Washington, D.C.

1There is much debate regarding who was the first African American woman to complete a doctorate degree in psychology. Some believe Dr. Howard was the first whereas others believe it was Dr. Inez Beverly Prosser who earned her doctorate in Educational Psychology a year earlier in 1933.

Young, J. L. (2010). Profile of Ruth Howard. In A. Rutherford (Ed.), Psychology's Feminist Voices Multimedia Internet Archive.

Saltzman, A. L. (2001). Ruth Winifred Howard (1900-1997). The Feminist Psychologist, 28.

February: National Girls and Women in Sports Day

February 1, 2012 marked the 26th anniversary of National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD). NGWSD is a day when girls and women can celebrate their participation in sports and athletics. Forty years ago, Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972 was passed. This landmark legislation protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance (Fast Facts, nd.). The 3rd quarter issue of Psych-E will discuss more on Title IX.

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2011). The condition of education 2011 (NCES 2011-033), Indicator 26.

National Center for Education Statistics. Fast facts: what is Title IX? Retrieved January 20, 2012

National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

Teens: Love doesn't have to hurtFebruary 2012 marks the third annual Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. The movement began in 2005 with the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and has grown in prominence since then. From 2006 to 2009, a National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Week was commemorated by Congress until 2010 when the full month was dedicated to the effort.

  • Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year (Dating Abuse Statistics, 2012). 

  • One in three adolescents in the US is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence (Dating Abuse Statistics, 2012). 

  • One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend (Dating Abuse Statistics, 2012). 

  • One quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse (Dating Abuse Statistics, 2012).

For more information about teen dating violence, visit the Children, Youth, and Families Office (PDF, 106KB). To learn more about the Public Interest Directorate’s Government Relations Office and VAWA, please visit the Women's Issues webpage.

To learn more about National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month or for more resources, please visit the About Teen DV Month website.

Love is Respect. (2012) Dating Abuse Statistics. Retrieved February 28, 2012