Downey, June Etta (1875–1932)

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Downey, June Etta (1875–1932)

American psychologist, noted for her work in the study of handwriting and personality testing. Born inLaramie, Wyoming, on July 13, 1875; died in Trenton, New Jersey, on October 11, 1932; one of nine children of Stephen (one of first territorial delegates to Congress from Wyoming, who was instrumental in the establishment of the University of Wyoming) and Evangeline (Owen) Downey (a community organizer); attended Laramie public schools and University Preparatory School, Laramie; University of Wyoming, B.A., 1895; University of Chicago, M.A., 1898; University of Chicago, Ph.D., 1907; never married; no children.

A pioneering woman in the field of psychology and an influential teacher, June Downey graduated with a degree in classics from the University of Wyoming in 1895. She taught school for a year before beginning graduate studies in philosophy and psychology at the University of Chicago, where she received her master's degree in 1898. Downey then returned to the University of Wyoming as an instructor of English and philosophy. Her interest in psychology intensified during a summer session at Cornell University studying under Edward Bradford Titchener. In 1905, Downey achieved professorial rank at Wyoming and the following year was granted a fellowship in psychology at the University of Chicago, where she received a Ph.D. in 1907. Her dissertation on handwriting and personality was published by the Psychological Review. Downey was then appointed head of the department of psychology and philosophy at Wyoming, becoming the first woman to head such a department at a state university.

From 1915 on, she focused exclusively on psychology, conducting experiments in personality and creativity. Downey became an expert in the study of handwriting (particularly as an indicator of personality differences), handedness (left and right), and the influence of personality on both voluntary and involuntary movement. At a time when most psychologists were concentrating on measuring intelligence, Downey broke new ground with a personality test based on "temperament-trait" testing. Her work resulted in over 60 articles and several books, including Graphology and the Psychology of Handwriting (1919), Plots and Personalities (with Edward E. Slosson, 1922), The Will-Temperament and Its Testing (1923), and Creative Imagination: Studies in the Psychology of Literature (1929). She also wrote a book on experimental psychology for young readers called Kingdom of the Mind (1927), as well as a number of short stories, plays, poems, and non-scientific articles.

Highly regarded as an outstanding scholar and meticulous researcher, Downey served on the council of the American Psychological Association from 1923 to 1925. In 1929, she and Margaret Floy Washburn were the first women elected to the Society of Experimental Psychologists. Downey, continually battling ill health, worked until her final illness. She died in 1932 at her sister's home in Trenton, New Jersey.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts