Margaret Floy Washburn


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Margaret Floy Washburn was born on 25 July 1871 in Harlem, New York City. She discovered experimental psychology and philosophy at Vassar College in upstate New York, where she received her BA in 1891. James McKeen Cattell wanted to admit her into his graduate courses in psychology at Columbia University, but its trustees delayed her for four months, and then only let her “audit” classes. She impressed Cattell, and with his help she got a scholarship offer to become Edward Titchener’s graduate assistant at Cornell University. There Washburn absorbed the major currents in experimental psychology and philosophy of mind. She took courses in philosophy as well, notably ethics from Jacob G. Schurman and acourse on German philosopher R. H. Lotze from visiting lecturer F. C. S. Schiller. Vassar gave her the MA degree in 1893 for work in absentia. She received her PhD in 1894 from Cornell, becoming the first woman to receive a doctorate in psychology in the US. She taught at Wells College in New York as professor of psychology, philosophy, and ethics from 1894 to 1900, at Sage College of Cornell, and the University of Cincinnati. She then accepted a call from Vassar College to become associate professor of psychology in 1903, joining philosopher H. Heath Bawden. In 1908 Vassar separated the department of psychology from philosophy, making Washburn the psychology department head and promoting her to full professor.


From The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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