Hollingworth, Leta Stetter

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Born 25 May 1886, Chadron, Nebraska; died 27 November 1939, New York, New York

Daughter of John G. and Margaret Danley Stetter; married Harry L. Hollingworth, 1910

Leta Stetter Hollingworth graduated with highest honors in 1906 from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in preparation for a teaching career. After teaching high school for a short period of time, she accompanied her husband to New York, where she attended Columbia University and received her Ph.D. in 1916 from its Teachers College. She was an instructor of educational psychology at Teachers College for the remainder of her career.

While attending graduate school, she had an opportunity to replace Emily T. Burr in administering newly devised mental tests in a clinic for the mentally deficient. When Burr, an early worker in this field, returned to her post, Hollingworth was also retained, due to her excellence in carrying out this work. In 1914 Hollingworth was the first psychologist to be appointed under the newly formed Civil Service supervision.

Early in her career, Hollingworth expressed a concern with problems connected with the social status of women. The subject of her doctoral dissertation was an experimental inquiry into the alleged limitations of women's abilities. Many of her early writings, published primarily in the American Journal of Sociology and Medical Record, were concerned with sex differences at birth, variability in achievement as related to sex, sex differences as related to mental deficiency, and social control over the role of women. Functional Periodicity (1914) resulted from these early studies of women. She became an active and lifelong member of "Heterodoxy" and in 1917 was designated as a Watcher for the Woman's Suffrage Party.

Hollingworth was also an early writer in the area of the relationship between intelligence level and delinquency. She continued her association with Bellevue Hospital in New York throughout her career; in 1921 she was appointed psychologist of the classification clinic.

Hollingworth is known for her innovative work in three major educational experiments. The first experiment was an analytic and remedial program with children having problems in particular school subjects. The Psychology of Special Disability in Spelling (1918) resulted from her work on this project. The second experiment, which involved children who were "highly endowed mentally," was known as the Special Opportunity Class. It was concerned with providing the best educational opportunities possible and provided much of the material for Gifted Children (1926).

The Speyer School project involved both slow learners (but excluding the mentally deficient) and exceptionally bright children; through this program the adaptation of the school to the needs and capacities of the individual was greatly enhanced. For the five-year experiment, Hollingworth was designated representative of Teachers College in charge of research and educational adviser for the two classes of exceptionally bright students; the school quickly became referred to as "Leta Hollingworth's school for bright children," even though they comprised a small minority of the classes. The school attracted much public attention not only in the U.S. but in foreign countries as well.

Hollingworth was a prolific writer, who contributed over 80 articles and numerous reviews, reports, and summaries to the field of educational psychology. Materials from her courses taught at Teachers College were coordinated and published in a volume used as a standard text in her field, The Psychology of Subnormal Children (1920). In addition to scholarly works, a collection of poetry of an autobiographical nature was written by Hollingworth and published in Prairie Years (1940).

Hollingworth was world renowned for her work in education and educational psychology, particularly in the area of the education of the gifted. Her many publications in this area were major contributions in the development of the field. In 1938 the University of Nebraska awarded her an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. In 1940 a Conference on the Education of the Gifted was held in her honor by Teachers College. A volume entitled Education and the Individual—In Honor of Leta S. Hollingworth was issued at the same time.

Other Works:

Special Talents and Defects: Their Significance for Education (1923). The Psychology of the Adolescent (1928). Public Addresses (1940).


Hollingworth, H. L., Leta S. Hollingworth: A Biography (1943).

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