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Cohen, P. (1985). Marie Battle Singer. Bul. Anna Freud Centre, 8(3):213-215.

(1985). Bulletin of the Anna Freud Centre, 8(3):213-215


Marie Battle Singer

Pauline Cohen

Marie Singer who died on 27 May 1985 was a remarkable figure in the world of British psychotherapy. As a clinician, lecturer and writer, her career was varied and distinguished, her wide-ranging activities taking her from the Hampstead Clinic where she trained, to Cambridge University where she lectured; from offering psychotherapy at the Middlesex Hospital to counselling at Eton.

Born in the American south in 1910, Marie came to Europe as a psychiatric social worker, having graduated from Smith in Massachusetts. While assisting refugees in post-war Germany, she heard of the work of Anna Freud and wrote to her about the Hampstead Course, then in its second year. In 1950 she joined the Course and qualified in 1954. While working towards her PhD which she obtained from London University she stayed on as a therapist at the Hampstead Clinic for some years. In 1960 her Important paper ‘Fantasies of a borderline patient’ was published in The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. This recorded her eight-year treatment of a latency boy who had been referred to the Clinic with the alarming symptom of walking along the tracks in the underground tunnels. Its publication was preceded by a rich contribution to the Hampstead Psychoanalytic Index, documented as: Ego Disturbance in a Latency Boy: the Case of Albert.

Marie was familiar with racial prejudice, and she needed all her gritty resilience to combat it. When arriving in London as a student, wanting to live near Harley Street, she found that advertised rooms, available when she telephoned, were unaccountably taken when she appeared in person. Years later I heard her tease her husband, ‘I won't tell anyone you are Jewish if you don't tell anyone I am black.’ She met her husband, James Burns Singer, the poet, literary critic and marine biologist, through Karin Stephen, the psychiatrist (who was of the Bloomsbury set), in whose house she lived.

From London Marie moved to Cambridge where at that time she was almost alone in practising psychotherapy. Her ability to apply psychoanalytic concepts to various related fields was extraordinary and she was soon invited to teach a course of psychoanalysis to psychology undergraduates at Cambridge University which delighted Anna Freud. In addition, for many years she ran a group seminar for Cambridge doctors which brought recruits to psychiatry and psychoanalysis.


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