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Main, T.F. (1971). Susan Isaacs: The First Biography: By D. E. M. Gardner. London: Methuen. 1969. Pp. 190.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 52:328.

(1971). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 52:328

Susan Isaacs: The First Biography: By D. E. M. Gardner. London: Methuen. 1969. Pp. 190.

Review by:
T. F. Main

This is a charming account of the unfolding of Susan Isaacs' life. Her childhood, with its bereavement and its early intellectual stimulation; her academic distinctions as a student, teacher, researcher, writer; her studies of childhood; and her later growth as a psychoanalyst; her leadership of the pioneer Department of Child Development at the Institute of Education; her later official distinctions: they are all here.

Susan Isaacs' steady determination to make sense of the lives both of others and of herself gave her own life coherence, even nobility. Her patiently and imaginatively researched ideas pervaded and stimulated a whole generation of those who care about children, and they live on now in the general assumptions of a later generation. She was a true pioneer with an astonishing capacity for work in creative search and teaching.

Dorothy Gardner's eagerness to record her achievements, her loving respect for others and her courage is easy to understand, yet Susan Isaacs the psychoanalyst might have wished for more warts on the portrait. Her creative work was not the fruit only of great gifts but of painful internal struggles. Her late development, her early feminist ideas, her childlessness, her two marriages to younger men, her early mistakes at Malting House, her search for psychoanalytic understanding of herself, and her fidelity to psychoanalysis—these too have a value and coherence of their own. Yet we have to be grateful that her many achievements are at last set out, and that we can savour something of her serenity and utter honesty. This is a loving memorial to, rather than a considered biography of, a great woman, a child of her times who became one of the parents of today. It is a delightful tribute well worth reading.

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