Martha Mednick, PhD

By Tasha Dorsey

Dr. Martha Mednick was born in 1929 in New York City to Jewish parents who had immigrated from Russia and Poland (Mednick, 2005). She remembers her mother advising her to choose a career in which she could support herself. At the time, there were few post-secondary schools that accepted women. City College of New York was one such institution, with the exception of its school of education. Dr. Mednick chose a degree in that field, being interested in testing, and went on to complete a Master of Science degree in school psychology at Northwestern University in 1952. Around this time, Dr. Mednick married and began a family (Mednick, 2005).

Completing a PhD at Northwestern University in 1955, she then accepted a two year internship with the Veteran’s Administration (Mackay, 2010; Mednick, 2005). There she worked extensively with the Weschler Intelligence Test, the Rosarch Test, and the MMPI (Mackay, 2010; Mednick, 2005). She recalls it as a time of hands on learning about clients. With both she and her husband aspiring to academic careers, the family moved several times. Dr. Mednick took several positions during this period, one of which was at Harvard’s Behavior Research Laboratory made famous by B.F Skinner and Ogden Lindsey. There, her work focused on the effectiveness of token economies with autistic children. She would later move to Michigan to teach and complete grants. She also spent time testing and teaching at Berkeley, where her husband took a position with the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research (Mednick, 2005).

In 1964, Dr. Mednick took a position at Howard University, where she would eventually retire in 1995 (MacKay, 2010; Unger, 2009). There, she and Dr. Sandra Tangri began work on the Journal of Social Issues (JSI) and emerging viewpoints of women (Mednick, 2005). This work with Tangri inspired Dr. Mednick to explore and research women and achievement for the remainder of her career. Together, she and Dr. Tangri published a special issue of the JSI called “New Perspectives on Women.” The issue was later published as a book, “Women and Achievement” in 1975 (Unger, 2009). At Howard, Dr. Mednick taught psychology of women and joined the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) in 1965 (Mednick, 2005). Also, during her time at Howard, Dr. Mednick mentored and worked with many African-American students who would become leaders in the field (Unger, 2009). Dr. Mednick has also demonstrated a commitment to diversity in regards to her Jewish heritage. She has challenged the assumption of gender equality within Israeli communities and has worked extensively to create platforms where perspectives of Jewish, American, and Arab women can be heard (Unger, 2009).

Dr. Mednick was an influential member of the Committee on Women in Psychology (MacKay, 201). She was president of Division 35, Society for the Psychology of Women of the American Psychological Association from 1976 to 1977 (Unger, 2009). She also served as president of SPSSI from 1980 to 1982 (Unger, 2009).

As evidenced by her extensive list of scholarly publications and positions, Dr. Mednick’s work serves as an example of a dynamic and meaningful career. Her work brings to the forefront of the field the issues of race, class, and gender. Her contributions provide a solid foundation on which future psychologists can confidently build.

References

MacKay, J. (2010). Profile of Martha Mednick. In A. Rutherford (Ed.), Psychology's Feminist Voices Multimedia Internet Archive. Retrieved from http://www.feministvoices.com/martha-mednick

Mednick, M. (2005, February 21). Interview by A. Rutherford [Video Recording]. Psychology’s Feminist Voices Oral History and Online Archive Project. Washington, DC.

Unger, R. K. "Martha Tamara Schuch Mednick." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. November 12, 2011.