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Davidson, L. (1997). Psychoanalysis And The Role Of Women. Contemp. Psychoanal., 33:307-312.

(1997). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 33:307-312

Psychoanalysis And The Role Of Women

Leah Davidson, M.D.


ROSE SPIEGEL WAS A MODEL of the American spirit that seeks and finds itself in struggle. Hers is a story of courage in the face of poor environmental and physical odds. It was this strength, it seems to me, that Rose imbued in her patients, colleagues, and friends. Her will to persist in interpersonal inquiry in reaching a workable consensus was indomitable, and while sometimes wearisome to those she challenged, she nevertheless always turned out to be devastatingly accurate, and a vehicle for insight and change.

Her three articles on women, written between the years 1966 and 1977, reflect this spirit of pursuit of the facts in the face of a burgeoning feminist literature and the defensiveness of those who held strong opposing views.

The first article, “The Role of Father-Daughter Relationships in Depressed Women” (1966) was published in Science and Psychoanalysis. At that time, she was already an established authority on depression (1960) and communication (1959) in the psychoanalytic field. She had also written a paper in 1962 entitled “Women’s Quest for Identity.”

In the article on father-daughter relationships (1966), she refers to female patients with “specific kinds of failure in the father-daughter relationship in the preadolescent and adolescent periods.” She mentions Abraham’s concept of faulty resolution of the Oedipus conflict as productive of manic-depressive illness and wonders about postpartum psychosis and mid-life depression as further developments in later life of failure in the father-daughter relationship. She states:

Bibring tied depression to low self-esteem as a defect in ego functioning and posited that whatever it is which induces low self esteem “causes” depression.


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