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Women, Gender & Psychoanalysis

Section III has been a leading voice in women and gender in psychoanalysis for over 30 years


Our history

The History of Women and Psychoanalysis: Division 39, Section III

By Dale Mendell and Harriet Kimble Wrye (1991), and Martha Temple (2005)

Parts I and II © 2004 American Psychological Association.  This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.

A slightly modified version of Part III was published in Psychologist-Psychoanalyst XXV(4), Fall 2005, 80-83.


The history of Section III is intimately connected with the history of the women’s movement both inside and outside of psychology and psychoanalysis.

The last quarter of a century has witnessed a resurgence of interest in the psychology of female development, with emphasis on early mother-child interactions, the nature of early identifications and the formation of gender identity. Much of this interest was initiated by the social and cultural questions posed by the larger women’s movement, which challenged the mental health profession to examine its practices toward women. Within APA this challenge was met by the establishment of the Committee on Women in Psychology and by Division 35: Psychology of Women.

Division 35 established a Task Force on Clinical Training to activate the clinical divisions to bring about change in theory, practice, training and research regarding women and to encourage women to participate in APA governance structures. By the time Division 39 was formed, there were a number of established sections for women within the other practice divisions.

However, an issue now arose.  From the perspective of many of these groups, as well as the growing number of critics outside of the field, psychoanalytic theory and consequently psychoanalytic practice, was viewed as phallocentric and denigrating to women. Because many analysts themselves were having a difficult time reconciling their conviction and clinical experience with the Freudian view of femininity as a secondary defensive formation, it seemed imperative that the newly formed Division of Psychoanalysis create a Committee on Women to examine essential theoretical, clinical and research issues pertinent to women’s development and psychodynamics.

Barbara Claster, as Co-Chair of Division 35’s Task Force on Clinical Training and Practice, was the primary initiator of the group which eventually became the Section on Women and Psychoanalysis. As the result of her contact with George Goldman, President-Elect and Robert Lane, President of Division 39, Lane contacted Dale Mendell and asked her to chair an ad hoc committee on women’s issues in psychoanalysis to ascertain whether such a committee would be of interest to members of the Division. Ruth Formanek was selected as co-chair. On May 7, 1982, a committee consisting of Dale Mendell, Ruth Formanek, Barbara Claster, Bernice Barber, Carole Dilling, and Suzanne Phillips held its first meeting.

Although the ad hoc committee first met less than a decade ago to deal with issues around the changes in psychoanalytic theory and practice, there has been a good deal of progress since then, in part as a result of the work of the Committee and the Section which was its outgrowth. For example, the effect of gender on the process of analytic treatment, rarely considered at that time, is frequently addressed in the current analytic literature. It is worthwhile to recall the concerns of the Committee on Women in Psychoanalysis (CWP) and of interested members of the Division, in the summer of 1982.

At the first open organization meeting of CWP at the 1982 meeting of the APA in Washington, DC, the following areas emerged as major concerns among approximately 45 members of Division 39:

  • 1. Concerns regarding equality included: the over-representation of male supervisors and training analysts at training institutes; the lower incidence of referral to female than to male analysts; the relative lack of women in positions of power in the Division.
  • 2. Concerns regarding theory included: the phallocentric view of traditional psychoanalytic theory; the gender-blind construction of much clinical theory; the lack of attention to issues unique to women, such as the pregnancy of the patient and of the analyst; the relatively small number of female analysts revising and modifying theory.
  • 3. Concerns regarding professional identity included: conflict between being a feminist and an analyst and the need for a group with dual identifications; apprehension over being identified with anti-analytic, self-dubbed “feminist therapists” by colleagues and patients.
  • 4. Concerns regarding patients included: lack of recognition of the negative effects of cultural stereotypes on women’s self-esteem; the too-frequent unconscious hostility toward women evidence by male therapists; the trend for female patients to seek alternative therapies due to the public’s image of psychoanalysis as negative to women.

During the 1982 meeting of the APA, members of the CWP met with delegates of inter-divisional women’s committees, including representatives of Divisions 29 and 35 and of the Committee on Women in Psychology, to learn about their experiences in organization and their opinions as to pertinent issues in the field. Among the many important and helpful ideas proposed, CWP immediately implemented several:

  • Writing a column concerning CWP or women’s issues for each Division 39 Newsletter
  • Forming local chapters in various geographic areas
  • Co-sponsoring programs for APA meetings with other divisions’ committees for women
  • Keeping abreast of on-going activities concerning women and psychoanalysis and disseminating this information to our members
  • Becoming involved in the organization and politics of our division.

In the Fall of 1982, Ruth Formanek, Dale Mendell, and Bernice Barber wrote the first of a continuing series of columns for The Psychologist-Psychoanalyst. Aptly title, “What do Women Want?,” this initial article announced the first meeting of CWP, summarized member concerns and called for additional members to join newly forming subcommittees. The Program Subcommittee, chaired by Helena Harris, had the goal of encouraging women to submit papers, ideas for panels and symposia for Division 39 meetings. The Research and Theory Subcommittee, under the direction of Joan Zuckerberg, functioned as a forum for members who were interested or involved in writing. Several published papers resulted from this forum, as well as a panel at the 1985 spring meeting of Division 39 in New York City; in addition, Joan Zuckerberg edited a volume that emanated from meetings of the Research and Theory Subcommittee.

  • The Subcommittee on Education and Consumer Affairs, chaired by Sheila Kaplan, focused on women’s roles in training institutes and with the public’s image of psychoanalysis and women.
  • The Subcommittee on Rap Groups, chaired by Bernice Barber, organized information and discussions on the personal and professional role of the women analyst.

While CWP originated in the New York area, geographic diversity and representation had always been considered a major building block for the organization. The earliest and strongest branch of CWP was its West Coast Chapter, based in Los Angeles, founded and Co-Chaired by Toni Bernay and Harriet Kimble Wrye. The West Coast group’s focus emphasized study groups, speaker’s forums and publishing a directory of members. Programs on analytic issues relevant to women, such as gender-specific countertransference problems, attracted a good deal of interest. Due to the newness of many groups there was often some overlap between Division 39 local chapter activities and the activities connected with CWP. This was true in Boston, according to Anne Thompsons and Susan Adelman, and in Washington, DC, as reported by CWP members Susannah Gourevitch and Rochelle Kainer, where the major focus was on encouraging writing and publications among group members. Jean Apperson encouraged programs in women’s issues in the Ann Arbor area.

After CWP had been in existence for less than a year, it became clear that there was sufficient interest from members of the Division to justify a more permanent organizational structure than that of an ad hoc committee. The Board of Directors of Division 39 was therefore petitioned to accept Women and Psychoanalysis as a Section of the Division. That petition was accepted unanimously by the Board on October 29, 1983. The petition read in part:

The purpose of the Section shall be to promote interest in and provide a forum for communication on research and theory concerning gender differences and women’s issues, to encourage women to participate actively in the Division of Psychoanalysis and to modify the current public image of psychoanalysis as negative to women.

With the change from an ad hoc committee to a Section of Division 39, the focus of Women and Psychoanalysis temporarily shifted to the necessary task of creating organizational structures. The President-Elect took over the function of Program Chair. The Bylaws Committee, consisting of Carole Dilling, Bernice Barber, and Helena Harris, based Section III’s document on the bylaws of the Division; they are passed by section members and approved by the Board of Division 39 in December 1984. The Nominations and Election Committee, which was chaired by Barbara Claster and included Judith Butt, Barbara Counter, and Cheryl Kurash, wrote a procedural document for nominations and elections. The first elections took place in August 1984; the results were as follows: President, Ruth Formanek; President-Elect, Dale Mendell; Secretary, Aphrodite Clamar; Treasurer, Sheila J. Kaplan; Representative to Division 39, Toni Bernay; members-at-large Bernice G. K. Kainer, and Harriet Kimble Wrye.

In line with Section III’s stated purpose of encouraging women to participate in the political process both inside and outside of the Division, a representative to the Division 39 Board of Directors was elected, and a representative to Division 39’s Committee on Women in Psychology was appointed. Judith Butt was appointed representative to Division 35’s Task Force on Clinical Training and Practice. An attempt was made to involve Section members in as many Divisional committees as possible, and Section III member Bernice Barber became the editorial assistant of the Division Newsletter.

Other, internal activities of the newly formed Section III included the compilation of a membership directory in March of 1985 by Carol Butler, the membership secretary, and the publication of a Newsletter in April, 1985, edited by Helena Harris. In addition, an impressive 325 page bibliography of women’s mental health issues, entitled Female Psychology: A Partially Annotated Bibliography, edited by Carole Dilling and Barbara Claster, was published in 1985 by the New York City Coalition for Women’s Mental Health. Several Section III members worked on this project. Due to her untimely death in October of 1984, Carole Dilling was not able to see the completion of the document. Her memory was honored by dedicating the Section’s 1985 convention presentation to her.

The major strength of Section III in these early years was in program development, both for the annual convention and for the midwinter divisional meetings. In this way, concerns of women about psychoanalysis were explicitly presented to the entire Division. The Section III Board requested that the Division 39 Program Committee include a Section member to do blind review for each convention. In addition, Section III initiated the idea that each section of the Division be guaranteed time-slots for each convention and the right to solicit and review programs for that slot, without going through divisional blind review. A good deal of persuasion, hard work and political maneuvering was necessary to convince the heads of the Division Program Committee to relinquish a portion of their programming power to the Section on Women and Psychoanalysis.


With Section III formally launched by its core group of founders and its first two Presidents, Ruth Formanek, and Dale Mendell and with the first set of by-laws in place, we set ourselves to the task of the development of membership, the refinement and implementation of our founding philosophy, broadening of our geographic base, and the further development of noteworthy programs that would consolidate our identity among our members and enhance our reputation in the division.

The majority of the original Board members where from the East Coast and most were also active in study groups. Bernay and Wrye who had co-founded the first West Coast Chapter of Division 39, Section III in Los Angeles in 1983, were influential in furthering the trend to broaden geographical representation and to foster the formation of Women and Psychoanalysis Chapters across the United States.

To this end, the 1986 Board voted to restructure the frequency and length of Board meetings. Whereas in the earliest days of the Section’s founding, with most of the key members residing in the New York area, it was possible and fruitful to have frequent midweek evening meetings to take up the issues of the new Section, this format has to be altered to facilitate broader national representation. Thus, to this end the 1986 Board voted to restructure the frequency and length of Section III’s Board meetings to correspond with Division 39’s midwinter and APA’s annual convention.

The activities during the middle phase of our development were directed by the then stated purpose of Section III, according to the bylaws: “The purpose of the Section shall be to promote interest in and provide a forum for communication on research and theory concerning gender differences and women’s issues, to encourage women to participate actively in the Division of Psychoanalysis, and to modify the current public image of psychoanalysis as negative to women.”

One of the truisms of the management and organization of Division 39 was that it often appeared to operate as a Good Ole’ Boys’ Club. The Section III Board agreed that if we were to implement our goals, we would have to forgo operating according to a stereotype as Polite Ladies Waiting to Be Asked and assert ourselves into the governance of the Division. To this end, we empowered the Section into becoming part of such key Division 39 committees as Programs and Publication, to assure that gender issues, female development, and psychology would be represented on any proposed diplomate exam. Aphrodite Clamar and Dale Mendell respectively represented the Section in planning and presenting a paper at the 1986 Clark Conference on Psychoanalytic Education. The aim was to highlight women’s issues in training such as the development of curriculum and the selection of faculty. At that conference, we encountered the typical resistance to giving central importance to these issues -the speakers on women’s issues were scheduled to speak at the end of the conference when most of the delegates had already departed. Similarly, it was necessary to take a strong stand to assert the Section’s prerogative for timely inclusion in the Division 39 Newsletter, which became the Section’s primary organ of communication to members and potential members across the country.

In 1987, the Board entered into a project to revise and expand the Section’s membership directory under the leadership of Carol Butler, then Membership Chair, who went on to coordinate the publication of the entire Division 39 Membership Directory. Aware that we were undertaking some pioneering ventures and recognizing the importance of chronicling the history of the Section, we voted to develop and maintain archives under the tutelage of Cheryl Kurash. At the same time the Board instituted a number of Standing committees with liaisons to the various Division 39 committees bearing the same name: Bylaws, Publications, Education and Training, Ethics, Research, Awards and Fellows, to honor distinguished women in psychoanalysis. Our delegates often had to struggle, not always successfully, to gain instrumental access to those Division 39 Board committees.

During the period 1985-1989 Section III also voted to send a representative to the Fund-raising Breakfast sponsored by Women’s Coalition for Legislative Action (WCLA), now Women Psychologists for Legislative Action (WPLA), in conjunction with the annual APA conventions in August. Two distinguished female legislators who have been invited speakers to this forum are Congresswoman Bella Abzug and Representative Pat Schroeder. The Section also voted to honor one of its founding members by offering financial support for the Carole Dilling Memorial Lecture. This scientific meeting, established by the Training Institute for Mental Health and held periodically, addresses issues relating to psychoanalytic views of women.

During this same time, 1985 and forward, GAPPP began to take shape supported by Division 39, with the purpose of mounting a legal campaign to challenge the monolithic hold on formal psychoanalytic training exercised in the U.S. by APsaA. The decision to file an antitrust class action lawsuit was made. Two of the four plaintiffs to the suit, Toni Bernay and Helen Desmond, were active members of Section III, thus actualizing Section III’s goals of active representation of women in the profession. The successful history of this GAPPP antitrust suit against APsaA is chronicled in detail by Arnold Schneider and Helen Desmond in Chapter 55, this volume.

Section III’s dedicated purpose of the promulgation of psychoanalytic thinking favorable to women became the subject of one of the first significant philosophical and programming controversies the Section addressed during this period. Dissatisfaction with the status of women, both within the profession of psychoanalysis as well as within the theory, was an important reason for the original establishment of the interest group. Whereas feminist concerns have united the membership, differences in ideological commitment and adherence to theories have often emerged in discussion and program planning within Section III. At times, these differences have threatened to divide the Section. However, discussions of these issues and the nature and validity of psychoanalytic research, have led to a broadening view of programming beyond classical drive psychology to include a wide range of theoretical approaches, including examination of those construed as negative to women.

The programming policy that emerged invites free discussion among classical drive theorists, relational, and self-psychology and object-relations theorists. Open and controversial dialogues and criticism of each emerging concept have been encouraged in the faith that negative conceptions of women would not long persist in such an open climate.

In 1988-1991, during the presidencies of Helena Harris, Helen Desmond, and Judie Alpert, and under the sponsorship of Helena Harris as Chair of the Bylaws Committee, the Section Bylaws were further revised. In addition to updating Section III’s functions and procedures, the statement of purpose was modified as follows:

The purpose of the Section shall be to promote research and theory concerning gender differences and women’s issues, to increase the participation of women in the roles and functions of the profession, to promote and maintain high standards of practice in the psychotherapeutic treatment of women, to advocate on behalf of women’s issues, and to engage in collaboration with individuals, groups and organizations in the realization of these objectives.

The current psychoanalytic climate, in part resulting from the successful efforts of Section III, was deemed more enlightened with regard to women’s issues. The phrase “to promote interest in” was deleted from the statement of purpose, reflecting the sense that interest in women’s issues in psychoanalysis has successfully been generated during the early phase of the Section. The phrase, “to modify the current public image in psychoanalysis as negative to women,” was now considered to be unnecessarily negative and thus deleted. The effort to increase women’s participation in the Division was broadened now to aim at increased participation in the profession at large.

In fact, under the presidency of Judy Alpert, a Training Institute Ad Hoc Committee, chaired by Laura Barbanel, and a Political Action Ad Hoc Committee, chaired by Ruth Formanek, were formed. The purpose of the former committee is to consider means of facilitating women’s degree of participation (both faculty and students) in training institutes, while the purpose of the latter committee is to engage in political action.

Another change in the bylaws, the addition of the phrase, “to promote and maintain high standards of practice in the psychotherapeutic treatment of women” reflects a move toward greater activism. The inclusion of this phrase reflects Section III’s adoption of a form of Division 17’s “Principles Concerning the Counseling/Psychotherapy of Women.” Twelve principles focusing on psychoanalytic treatment of women were reported in The Psychologist-Psychoanalyst Vol VIII, No. 4. Fall, 1988. The principles reflect Section III’s position that “Psychologist-Psychoanalysts should be knowledgeable about women with regard to biological, psychological, and social issues; should recognize evidence of sexism and oppression in themselves, in society, and in their patients, and assure that no preconceived limitations or biases are imposed in the treatment of women patients; and that they use nonsexist language in analysis, supervision, teaching, and journal publication.”

The activist identity of the Section in reflected in the addition to the bylaws of the phrase, “to advocate on behalf of women’s issues, and to engage in collaboration with individuals, groups, and organizations in the realization of these objectives.” There was debate at this time over changing the name and orientation of Section III from a primary focus on women’s issues to reflect a broader focus on gender issues. The latter was considered by some as appropriate to raise the consciousness of men regarding gender issues -both masculine and feminine -and to generate the participation and involvement of more men in Section III. A majority of the Board members however opposed this shift at this time, maintaining that the Section should continue its primary focus on women’s issues and retain Section III’s current name.

Another activist undertaking, during heightened religious and political debates regarding fetal rights and women’s reproductive choices involved Sheila Kaplan’s draft of a Pro-Choice Action Statement advocating preservation of women’s legal rights to reproductive choice. This statement was endorsed by Section III and published in The Psychologist-Psychoanalyst (Vol IX, No. 3, Summer, 1989). In addition, in the wake of the Webster decision by the Supreme Court, a letter was circulated o the Division membership urging action and providing a state-by-state list of NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) members for use in securing information on working at the local level with state legislators.

Another recent development has been Section III’s outreach to Section IV, Local Chapters, regarding the creation of local and regional study groups on gender issues. Marilyn Jacobs is chairing the National Study Groups Committee, formed in 1990. The intent is to develop a national forum for enabling local study groups to become aware of each other, to encourage communication and to foster networking among them.

Whereas during the early phases of the Section, the Board has fought to establish the right of the Section to a quality time slot on national programs, and the right to solicit and review programs for that slot, the actual arrangement of programs was the task of the President-Elect. This became problematic in that in many cases distinguished speakers’ schedules are booked well in advance, and with time and experience, it became apparent that the President-Elect’s lead-in time was insufficient to guarantee quality programs. Thus, in 1988 the Board established a Standing Program Committee that was charged with developing high-level programs that could be planned 2 years in advance. The philosophy of the Section has always been to provide first-rate programs that would be of interest to a large audience and would stimulate discussion and thinking about gender issues. This resulted in the establishment of Section III’s reputation for providing consistently distinguished symposia at the Spring Division 39 and Summer APA meetings.

In addition to these formal programs, Section III established a policy to encourage its members to become accomplished journal writers, speakers and presenters, and to gain more experience and exposure through Women and Psychoanalysis conversation hours sponsored in the Division 39 hospitality suite and/or in the Section III President’s hotel suite. With the increasingly competitive review process for the limited number of formal convention time slots, this policy was developed particularly to create fostering oral and written presentations and to encourage younger members’ professional growth.

At this writing [in 1991-MT], under the presidencies of Judie Alpert and Carole Morgan, Section III continues to attract new and distinguished members associated with the concerns of female development, psychology, and psychoanalysis. Under the chairmanship of Adria Schwartz, of the Journal Ad Hoc Committee (1990), Section III is presently developing a journal as a wider forum for disseminating papers in the areas of interest for which the original Ad hoc committee was founded, thus promulgating the vision with which Section III was founded.


Section III of Division 39 began as “Women and Psychoanalysis” in 1983 at a time of great concern for the understanding of women in psychoanalytic theory and practice, and for the development of women in the United States as psychoanalysts and psychologists.  The intervening years have seen extraordinary changes, which have been reflected in, and often led by, the activities of Section III and its members. What follows here is a brief summary of the ways in which the Section has continued to fulfill and elaborate these intentions over the past 15 years.

Initiatives begun during Judith Alpert’s presidency in 1990-1991 revamped Section III by-laws and committees to facilitate this evolution.  Committees were active developing an annual, thematic publication on women, gender and psychoanalysis; assessing women’s leadership roles in analytic training institutes, and facilitating women’s participation as both faculty and students; establishing guidelines for Section III activities; and identifying groups of like interests outside the Division, in order to create ongoing relationships.

Successive presidents had been and, after their terms, continued to be actively involved in the activities of Section III and its Board.  1992 president Carole Morgan recalls the feeling of the group back then. “It still felt new and we were working to increase our membership. We were encouraging our members to present their work at the Division meetings, and we were organizing ourselves to honor our women mentors. There was a sense of solidarity and a working together which was very refreshing.”

The 1992 mid-winter meetings were held in Philadelphia, where Section III sponsored a panel titled “Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and Subjectivity” chaired by Polly Young-Eisendrath with Jane Flax and Elizabeth Young-Bruehl.  The section initiated a practice we have continued since then, hosting a reception honoring women who have made a significant contribution to psychoanalysis. In 1992 our honoree was Hedda Bolgar, a trailblazer in the post World War II years for Ph.D. analysts and a mentor to many of her younger colleagues.

A new committee began to look into the issue of medication privileges for psychologists. Conclusions from the study included the observation that complaints of women are often minimized by physicians and therefore women are prescribed psychoactive medications proportionally more often than men.  As a consequence, the committee made it a goal to ensure that all training programs include an emphasis on women’s responses, for example to stress, mental illness, and hormonal shifts.  This theme was continued in a paper given in the 1993 Spring meeting by Marjorie Schuman “The Decision to Medicate in Psychoanalytic Treatment and its Implications,” as part of a symposium, “Psychoanalytic Dimensions of Psychopharmacological Treatment.” Differential treatment of men and women is a concern we continue to address in new forms in 2005.

In Randy Milden’s presidency, 1993, we celebrated the vibrant development of a feminist psychoanalysis during the preceding twenty years by presenting a new forum for these ideas through the Supplement to Psychoanalytic Psychology edited by Donna Bassin and Adria Schwartz.

1993 also marked the first appearance of the Section III newsletter, conceived and assembled by Lisa Pomeroy and Peggy Buttenheim as a vehicle to communicate about issues “relevant to women’s’ lives, scholarship, and political agendas.”  The newsletter also provided an opportunity for members to write articles and book reviews, and offered a venue to showcase their books for the ever increasing percentage of Section III members who were writing them.   The newsletter made clear the cutting edge place that many Section III people occupied in the scholarship produced in Division 39. From 1993 through its final issue in 2002 the newsletter also featured essays and reports such as Marilyn Jacobs’ and Carol Fahy’s account (Spring, 1998) of the 1997 cultural exchange in Russia and Eastern Europe by women psychoanalysts of Division 39.

At the 1993 Division 39 meeting in New York, Section III honored as Distinguished Psychologist, Irene Fast, Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan, a distinguished writer, teacher and clinician, and author of groundbreaking work in the area of gender development.  The Section program for the spring meeting was “Feminist Post-modernism and Melancholia,” chaired by Adria Schwartz. It featured Judith Butler, whose talk, “Refused Identification, Melancholy Genders,” focused on psychoanalysis, gender identity, and depression.

At the 1993 summer APA meeting in Toronto, Section III presented a roundtable discussion, “Listening as a Feminist Psychoanalyst,” featuring panelists Irene Fast, Muriel Dimen, and Judith Jordan, exploring the ways in which feminist thought shapes our work with patients.

In 1994 Section III voted to change its name from “Women and Psychoanalysis” to “Women, Gender, and Psychoanalysis,” following vigorous debate, which President Adria Schwartz, in the Spring newsletter, characterized as “reflective of the . . . ways in which we continue to question who we are and what we are about.”

During Adria Schwartz’s presidency, the Section gained a more international perspective.  Through Peggy Buttenheim’s inspiration and hard work Section III invited two women from England, Noreen O’Connor and Joanna Ryan, to speak at the Section III Symposium at the Spring meeting in Washington, DC.  Their paper, “Can Lesbians be Women? Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Identity and Difference,” comprised two case studies which were discussed by Jane Flax in the context of their book, Wild Desires and Mistaken Identities: Lesbianism and Psychoanalysis (NY: Columbia University Press, 1994).

In the interest of widening channels of communication among section members, the newsletter was supplemented by an open membership forum at the Spring meeting.  The Section’s reception, open to the entire Division 39, honored all Section III authors, recognizing and celebrating an extraordinary breadth of scholarship.

The Section III invited symposium at the APA meetings in Los Angeles was “Power, Desire and Ambition: Women’s Narratives.”  It was chaired by Margaret Buttenheim, with presenters Judith Welles, Harriet Wrye, and Dorothy Cantor, with Randy Milden, discussant.

We also instituted outreach through individual members to graduate students and candidates in order to encourage their participation.  The president called for a wider conversation about the failure of both the Section and the Division to achieve sexual, racial, ethnic and cultural diversity and encouraged members to promote it in their workplaces.

Margaret Buttenheim, 1995 president, recalls that one of the things she did during this time was to bring in a number of guest presenters who spoke on homosexuality:  “This is such an old and comfortable subject now,” she says, “that it is hard to remember that ‘women’ in Section III usually meant the concerns of heterosexual women.  Now complex thinking about sexual orientation is a mainstream affair.”

Molly Donovan observes, “Section III was in an expansive period in 1996 during my year as President, with a robust membership and an activist Board. Our focus that year was on helping women to become more visible and influential in Division politics and in the field of psychoanalysis. We supported candidates for office and urged members to join Division committees. It felt important at that time to acknowledge and to stay rooted in our feminist beginnings, and our honorees that year were our foremothers, the Founders of Section III, which began as the Committee on Women in Psychoanalysis in the early years of Division 39 and officially became a Section in 1983. We also encouraged members of the Section in their professional writing, co-sponsoring (with the Continuing Education Committee) a one-day workshop on how to get published.”

She continues, “That year our Spring presenter was Carolyn Heilbrun, speaking on ‘Women Writing our Lives: How Free Are We?’ with Randy Milden and Donna Bassin as discussants.  Our presentation at APA that summer was a very powerful and personal series of papers by Section members, organized by Kay Saakvitne, entitled ‘Time and Tide Won’t Wait: Tragedy in the Therapist’s Life.’ Section III also hosted a follow-up to the April 1996 Continuing Education Publication Workshop, a conversational gathering to continue our support of both new and experienced authors in ways to find their words on the printed page.  During these years many Section III members continued to present at, or chair, multiple sessions, contribute to discussions and participate through organizational positions within Division 39 and the APA.  It was at that time a distinctly woman’s voice that we were hearing, encouraging, and entering into the mainstream.”


When Gemma Ainslie entered her presidency she commented in the Section III newsletter (Winter, 1997), “As I enter new arenas in my life this year and leave behind others, my musings have very much centered on the . . . remarkably potent tradition of kneading the inert past via telling and retelling until it yields a history.  I am especially interested in . . . areas of women’s development which offer rich opportunities for review and renewed exploration in the hope of continuing to inform and shape theory with ever more detailed and textured reflections from clinical work.”


Furthering her intention, Gemma Ainslie chaired the symposium “Psychoanalytic Stories about Female Development: How We Listen and What We Hear” at the spring meeting in Denver.  Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer presented a chronicle of psychoanalytic theory regarding female development, with Kimberlyn Leary as discussant. The Section III reception in Denver honored Dr. Joan Trachtman.  As listed in the newsletter, over forty members of Section III presented at this meeting.


At the Section’s invited symposium at the 1997 APA meeting in Chicago, Kerry Kelly Novick presented aspects of her work on sadomasochism in “What Are You Going to Do in A Little Canoe? The Sequestering of Sadomasochism in Women’s Lives.”


Continuing our tradition of challenging the “known” and assumed, in 1998 our sponsored symposium at the Spring meeting in Boston was “The Role of Gender and Sexuality in Therapeutic Impasses and Ruptures.”  Section III’s president, E. Lisa Pomeroy, chaired the symposium, which included papers by Karen W. Saakvitne, Irene Pierce Stiver, and Susan Nathanson Elkind.  The Section honored Irene Pierce Stiver and Johanna Kraut Tabin. At the 1998 APA meeting in San Francisco the Section III symposium was “Patients’ Response to Aging, Grief and Illness in the Analyst,” chaired by Lisa Pomeroy, presented by Anne Louise Silver and Hedda Bolgar, with Maurine Kelly as discussant.


The Section’s presidents comment on the exceptional warmth with which Section members and the Board work together not only within the Section but in the many significant contributions Section III members make within their own local chapters, Societies, and communities.


E. Lisa Pomeroy convened a well-remembered retreat at the Claremont Resort and Spa in Berkeley that year.  She recalls, “One goal of my Presidency was to consider the many changes in Division 39. . . . Earlier issues and some political goals within Division 39 had been resolved. Our membership was substantial and the Section chose to give careful thought to the direction we were heading.”  In part as a result of Section III efforts, women had come to have a powerful voice in the Division.  She adds, “Things had changed because of the gifted women who founded the Section, as well as courageous women such as Harriette Kaley, who won the Presidency of Division 39, during a highly conflicted and contentious period in the Division’s history.


“The amazing mothers who gave birth to Section III, the outstanding leaders of the Section who followed and the united support towards women who ran for office, published and sought leadership within psychoanalysis should be an inspiration to the current Board. The Retreat was an attempt to consider all of this by a Board that was cohesive and gung-ho. Section III over the years has made an immeasurable contribution to Division 39 and to the important work of women psychoanalysts and psychotherapists.  The Retreat was well attended and a marvelous uniting experience.”


During her year as President, Margaret Fulton reports, this impetus continued as the Section continued to think creatively about outreach, collaborative planning, and co-sponsorship with other Division 39 sections and APA divisions.  Preliminary conversations and planning efforts got underway with Section II (Childhood and Adolescence), the Infant Mental Health Program, and the newly developed Section IX (Psychoanalysts for Social Responsibility) in an effort to develop collaborative ventures within the Division.


At the 1999 Spring Meeting in New York City, the Section III Symposium, “Sexuality, Gender, and Erotic Transference-Countertransference: Have We Been Reading Too Much Winnicott?” featured thought-provoking presentations by Diane Elise, Karen Maroda, and Janet Linder.  The Symposium discussant was Ethel Person, who was also recognized and honored at the Section III reception.  We also sponsored a Conversation Hour on the “Perils of Managed Care” with Karen Shore from Division 42 as our invited speaker.


At the APA meetings in Boston that year, Section III pushed the boundaries of discourse at its Symposium entitled, “Feminism and the Unconscious: Bodies, Psychic Borders, and Social Boundaries,” which featured pioneering papers by Jan Haakan and Kareen Malone, with Randy Milden as discussant. Margaret Fulton remembers, “The final months of 1999 involved ongoing dialogues regarding how to best carry the baton into the new millennium!”


Karen Maroda recalls that Section III was in “a bit of a crisis” when she started her year as president.  “Membership was down and we were teetering on the brink of failing to meet the requirements for our continued existence” as a section. The Board called members who had not renewed, and addressed the issues they uncovered:  one involved clearer communication with the members, but the other, Karen Maroda says, “revolved around a rather natural evolution.  As many section members became more successful, they tended to leave the section to pursue their writing or the division board.  We needed both their leadership and their star quality to add luster to the section.  Happily, both Muriel Dimen and Adrienne Harris stepped up and became active in the section once again, and Nancy McWilliams became a board member for the first time and has helped lead the section to this day. . . . News of our crisis actually seemed to strengthen interest in the section.  No one wanted to see Section III disappear. The board focused on cutting edge programming.  And membership blossomed once again.”


During Ellen Toronto’s tenure (2001) she found herself in the midst of a shift in our objectives. “Having participated in many of the activist goals of enabling women to enter the mainstream, i.e., serve in major elective offices, present significant panels, forge policy changes, we had entered a new phase of generativity. Our focus was shifting to that of mentoring a new generation of psychoanalytic thinkers and passing along our hard-won knowledge. In keeping with these change we honored Adrienne Harris with our annual Section award. Her career exemplified both her significant contributions to the field and her generosity in mentoring a new generation.”

The Board also began to formulate the possibility of compiling a book on gender that would organize and celebrate the many contributions to the field of authors in the Section.  This book, Psychoanalytic Reflections on a Gender-free Case: Into the Void, (London: Brunner-Routledge) reaches publication in the fall of this year, 2005, and is being celebrated at the APA meetings in Washington, DC.

Jane Tillman, president of Section III in 2002, recalls the Section’s organizational challenges and action plans during these years:  “[We reconstructed] a list of past-presidents and past award recipients to help keep us mindful of our rich history. . . . The Board wrestled with the painful question of whether Section III had achieved its original mission with the great success women have had moving from the Section III leadership to the larger Division politics and leadership.  In our efforts at critical self-examination a mission statement was created for the Section, reflecting our values and goals.  Because of financial difficulties and time constraints the Newsletter was discontinued and plans were made to begin exploring creating a Website for Section III.”

At the Spring Meeting of 2002, held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, the section honored Elisabeth Young-Bruehl.  Our sponsored panels included presentations by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Hedda Bolgar, and Adrienne Harris at the Spring meetings, and Tanya Luhrman at the APA meetings in August.  Unfortunately, as we were gearing up for a major membership drive, our Membership Secretary, Yasmin Roberts, died after a sudden, short, and painful illness.  Her skill and enthusiasm were a loss for the Section.

Toni Heineman created and managed the Section III Dissertation Award which was awarded for the first time in 2002 to Sanjay Nath.  A bylaws revision was initiated to reflect changes in our Board functioning, and to move the President’s term to two years.

When Jane Tillman passed the torch to Judith Logue in 2003, Judith recalls, the Board’s mandate was to revive our membership to the necessary 150 members from about 60, in order to maintain our voting rights in Division 39.  Judith comments, “I don’t know how we did it, but we did!  Everyone pitched in with our slogan of “154 by 2004,” and we made it.”  Nancy McWilliams was honored with our award that year for her many contributions to theory, practice, and teaching, especially her popular and significant books.

In 2004, under the presidency of Maurine Kelly, Ellen Toronto read the gender-free case from our book in the Section III panel presented at APA in Hawaii. Judith Logue and Nancy McWilliams presented, with Maurine Kelly as the discussant.

Royce Jalazo (2006 President) has developed and maintained our Section III web site. Credit goes to Jill Salberg and Batya Monder for their contributions to the success of our first discussion group on the web, which ran for two weeks in September, 2004. Our discussant was Muriel Dimen, the recipient of Section III’s 2004 award of recognition for writing and service in the area of Women, Gender and Psychoanalysis. The discussion highlighted her new book, Sexuality, Intimacy, Power (Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 2003), and focused on the chapter “In the Zone of Ambivalence: A Feminist Journal of Competition.”

In 2005, under Batya Monder’s presidency, at the Division 39 spring meeting in New York we honored Harriet Kimble Wrye, one of the founders of Section III and one of its early presidents.  At a large and well-attended reception, the Award was presented to her by Batya Monder for her scholarship and contributions to the psychoanalytic literature, especially on the subject of the maternal erotic transference. Many of her articles were gathered in her ground-breaking book, coauthored with Judith Welles, The Narration of Desire: Erotic Transferences and Countertransferences (Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1994). The Section III panel at the spring meeting drew a large turnout.  Batya Monder introduced the panel, “Sex: The Next Generation,” which was organized and moderated by Muriel Dimen who led the lively discussion that followed.  Papers were presented by Debra Roth and Stephen Hartman, and Virginia Goldner was the discussant.

Toni Heineman presented our second Annual Dissertation Award to Sally Brandel, who is completing her work at the Fielding Graduate Institute.

For the summer APA meeting, Batya Monder organized and moderated the Section III  panel, entitled “After Our Bodies Ourselves,” taking off from the popular book of the 70s. Panelists explored the trajectory that Feminism took from the 70s forward, focusing in part on the disturbing increase of body-modifying surgeries and the complex pressures on women to undergo them. The panel was so well attended and caused such a stir that The Monitor ran a short piece on it, and a fuller report on the panel will appear in a future issue of Psychoanlytic Psychology, written by Batya Monder. Section III also hosted a Meet the Authors session to promote our  book, which we have continued to market with book parties in various cities across the country.

As we move forward in the 21st century, we face ongoing challenges to maintain membership numbers in this vibrant section, and we expect to stay on the cutting edge of subjects that are important to psychoanalysis.

Section III

Women, Gender, and Psychoanalysis

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