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Moulton, R. (1975). Early Papers on Women: Horney to Thompson. Am. J. Psychoanal., 35(3):207-223.

(1975). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 35(3):207-223

Early Papers on Women: Horney to Thompson

Ruth Moulton, M.D.

As time goes on we continue to get new perspectives on the development of psychoanalytic thinking about the nature of woman. It is interesting to note that the first two waves of controversy over Freudian theory had to do with sex. The first (1911-1912) was marked by the defection of such men as Jung and Adler, who both felt that Freud overestimated the role of sexual conflict in producing neuroses. They went ahead to develop their own thinking, which was not quite so offensive to Victorian culture, which found unacceptable the idea that innocent children and well-bred women should have sexual drives. A second wave of controversy about Freud developed in the early 1920's and revolved around his theories of female sexuality. Horney initiated and led the ongoing effort to point out the basic flaws in Freud's phallus-centered point of view. It was her main concern for ten years (1922-1932) during which she wrote nine outstanding papers on women, which influenced many people including Freud, although few analysts, men or women, gave her much encouragement or validation. The clarity and independence of her thinking is phenomenal and ahead of its time. One of the main purposes of this paper is to review her contributions and to try to explain why she alone was able to make them at that time and in that place. A second goal will be to trace the transition between her early papers and the beginning of new studies of women begun in America in the 1940's by such later pioneers as Clara Thompson.

In order to understand the monumental job of reconstructing psychoanalytic thinking about women, one must go back briefly to the accepted theories that existed when Horney started to write. Freud had written very little directly about female sexual development. His “Three Essays on Sexuality(1905) were primarily based on observations about men; women were seen as secondary with no unique identity of their own.

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