Christine Ladd-Franklin’s role as a female leader in psychology began early in life, as both her mother and aunt were staunch supporters of women’s rights. This early influence not only helped her succeed in her field despite considerable opposition, it also inspired her later work advocating for women’s rights in academia.
Ladd-Franklin had various interests including psychology, logic, mathematics, physics, and astronomy. She challenged one of the leading male psychologists of the day, Edward Titchener, for not allowing women into his group for experimentalists,9 and she developed an influential theory of color vision.
She studied at John Hopkins and completed a dissertation titled “The Algebra of Logic”. However, the school did not permit women to receive a Ph.D. at that time. She went on to spend time in Germany studying color vision with Hermann von Helmholtz and Arthur Konig.10 She eventually rejected Helmholtz’s theory of color vision to develop her own. Finally, in 1926, nearly 44 years after completing her dissertation, John Hopkins awarded her the doctorate degree she had rightfully earned.11
Today, she is remembered for both her work in psychology and her influence as a pioneering woman in a field once dominated by men.