Eissler-Selke, Ruth (1906-1989)

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A physician and psychoanalyst, Ruth Eissler-Selke was born February 21, 1906, in Odessa and died October 7, 1989, in New York. She was born into a Jewish family, her father being the director of a German bank and then a grain exporter. After moving several times and attending schools in Odessa, Hamburg, and Danzig, Eissler-Selke completed her studies in 1925 in Freiburg-im-Briesgau. She studied medicine at the University of Freiburg, graduating in 1930. She specialized in psychiatry and, following graduation, practiced in Heidelberg and Stuttgart. Her dissertation, which she defended at the University of Heidelberg in 1932, was entitled "Medical Histories of Six Cases: The Contribution of Social Hygiene to the Question of Alcoholism and Tuberculosis."

After Hitler came to power, Eissler-Selke went into exile in 1933 in Vienna and worked at the psychiatric hospital in Rosenhügel. In December 1933, she requested admission to the training institute of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and began an analysis with Theodor Reik. After Reik's emigration to the Netherlands, she turned to Richard Sterba for her analysis. She was accepted as a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society in 1937. While in Vienna she met Kurt R. Eissler, a doctor, philosopher, and later a psychoanalyst. They were married in 1936.

In March 1938, Kurt and Ruth Eissler emigrated to the United States and settled in Chicago. She became a member and training analyst of the Chicago Psychoanalytic Society and worked as a child psychiatrist at the Michael Reese Hospital. During the Second World War, she was a consulting physician in an institution for young delinquent women in Chicago. In 1948 she and her husband moved to New York and she became a member of, and training analyst with, the New York Psychoanalytic Society. From 1951 to 1957 she was secretary, then vice president of the International Psychoanalytic Association and, from 1950 to 1958, one of the editors of The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, an annual publication founded in 1945 by Anna Freud, Heinz Hartmann, and Ernst Kris.

Aside from her teaching activities and psychoanalytic publications, she wrote poetry and a novel (unpublished), as well as several short stories. In 1976, to celebrate her seventieth birthday, a collection of her poems in German was published in New York.

Elke MÜhlleitner

See also: Eissler, Kurt Robert.


Eissler-Selke, Ruth. (1946). About the historical truth in a case of delusion. Psychoanalytic Review, 33, 442-459.

. (1949). Observations in a home for delinquent girls. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 3-4, 449-460.

. (1976). Gezeiten: Gedichte in deutscher Sprache. New York: Abaris Books.

Eissler-Selke, Ruth, Blitzstein, N. Lionel, and Eissler, Kurt R. (1950). Emergence of hidden ego tendencies during dream analysis. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 31, 12-17.

Mühlleitner, Elke. (1992). Biographisches Lexikon der Psychoanalyse (Die Mitglieder der Psychologischen Mittwoch-Gesellschaft und der Wiener Psychoanalytischen Vereinigung 1902-1938). Tübingen: Diskord.