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Solomon, B.C. (2004). Psychoanalysis and Feminism: A Personal Journey. Ann. Psychoanal., 32:149-160.

(2004). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 32:149-160

Psychoanalysis and Feminism: A Personal Journey

Brenda C. Solomon

As a woman born the same year that Sigmund Freud died, 1939, I have been able to reach the kind of professional recognition that might not have been possible earlier. I offer my personal narrative in order to illustrate some of the changes in psychoanalysis and the psychology of gender that have taken place in the post-Freudian era.

Life smiled on me when I was born, an only child, into a family that supported higher education and could afford it. My early career plan of veterinary medicine was modified when I had an appendectomy at age twelve. The miracles of medicine cemented my goal of becoming a physician. Additionally, an idealization of my attorney father (whom I considered “my Clarence Darrow”) dictated that I enter a field different from his, which I narcissistically fantasied would also make me “special.” Gender issues were noteworthy to me even then. Whether accurately or not, I believed that my being a girl had been a disappointment to my father. He was not only brilliant, he was also a “jock.” I was not. In high school, I took all the science and math that was offered. (Of historical interest: my high school advisor recommended that I take German because, at that time, German was the language of science.)

Shortly after I left home for college as a premed, my nondiagnosable, symptomatic mother unexpectedly died of an unusual brain tumor. This trauma increased my determination to master the mysteries of the brain and pathology. I returned home and transferred to a local commuter extension of the University of Illinois, where I was one of a few female premeds. Every “expert” predicted that a woman would not be able to maintain a career and have a family. Furthermore, there was bias against my applying to a state school because it was seen as my taking the place of an eligible man who would, according to then prevalent gospel, certainly contribute more to the medical needs of the community.

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