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O'Shea, Harriet E. (1895-1986) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

Name: O'Shea, Harriet E. (1895-1986)


Historical Note: Born on October 27, 1895, in Madison, Wisconsin, Harriet was one of four children in a family of cultural and educational achievement. (The School of Education building at the University of Wisconsin is named for her father.) Her self-assurance and wide range of interests were encouraged from early childhood. She completed a bachelor's degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1916 and a master's degree in 1917. For the next dozen years she held a variety of jobs ranging from working as a statistical analyst for the War Department, to conducting surveys in cities and states regarding the desirability of all-year schools. For much of this time she was concurrently head of the English department, school psychologist, and principal of the Childrens University School in New York City. She taught at Bryn Mawr College and was acting department head. At Mills College, she was student personnel advisor and director of the preschool laboratory for four years. Along with these full-time, part-time, and overlapping responsibilities, she completed the PhD at Columbia University in 1931. Robert S. Woodworth and Edward L. Thorndike were her advisors, providing the theoretical basis for the applied activities that she preferred. From 1931 until 1964, Harriet O'Shea was at Purdue University, moving through the ranks from associate professor to professor emeritus. In keeping with her life history of multiple involvements she not only taught courses in child and adolescent development, clinical psychology, and the usual introductory, general, and educational courses, but she also expanded the teaching and clinical resources in related fields. She organized and directed the nursery school. She was Women's Personnel Director. She was active as a therapist and psychologist in the University Psychological Services, where she had earlier established a school psychological clinic. She organized the program and actively participated in the training of clinical psychologists from 1946 to 1960, following the Boulder Conference model. The unique needs of children, the importance of early identification, and the prevention of adjustment problems were themes that guided her teaching and all her professional activities. As an inevitable consequence of her interests, she was active in professional organizations. She had been a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and was active in the merger of APA and the American Association for Applied Psychology in the 1940s. She was one of those who urged that school psychology, as distinct from educational psychology, be recognized as a division of APA. She was a member of APA divisions related to children, school, education, and counseling and was active as secretary, council representative, and committee chair in these divisions. The Thayer Conference, at which school psychology was defined and evaluated, was a major forum for her views on the role psychology might play in the educational system. In Indiana, O'Shea was a principal creator of the Indiana Psychological Association. Her efforts to attain legal professional status for psychologists in that state formed the basis for subsequent certification regulations. She supported high standards of training and was an early Diplomate in Cinical Psychology in the American Board of Professional Psychology. She held a life certificate as school psychologist in Indiana. She was active in organizing the International Council of Women Psychologists and served as president for several terms. Along the way, she garnered professional and civic honors and recognitions. Following her retirement from Purdue, Harriet moved to Massachusetts and joined a mental health program. Later, she joined an educational collaborative program, and still later a joint private practice, remaining active until past 85 years of age. She shared her rich experiences in clinical techniques, psychotherapy, and counseling, both as staff member and consultant. She was a beloved and influential mentor because of her creative approach to problems and the encouragement she provided to both staff and clients to make maximum use of their potential. In this she continued what she had been doing all her life-teaching, stimulating, opening doors to new ideas and activities.
Sources: American Psychologist, v. 43 (1), January, 1988, p. 71





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