Georgene Seward, PhD

Seward was a researcher devoted to issues critical to women, and an early advocate of women seeking mental health treatment from female therapists

Dr. Georgene Hoffman Seward was born in Washington, DC, on January 21, 1902. After the death of her mother, she was raised in New York City by her grandfather and great aunt (Sargent, 1993). Dr. Seward attended Barnard College with a major in psychology and earned her Bachelors of Arts in 1922. She pursued graduate work at Columbia University, where she met and married fellow graduate student, John Perry Seward, Jr., with whom she would also share a professional relationship (Sargent, 1993). Dr. Seward taught for one year at Hunter College, returning to Barnard where she until 1937, while her husband taught at Columbia. Sex discrimination followed Dr. Seward throughout her career; she was frequently denied promotions in favor of men. In 1937, both Sewards took positions at Connecticut College for Women where co-ran the psychology department (Stevens, 1982).

The professional collaboration between Dr. Seward and her husband began during their early post-doctoral years, and included an association with the developer of the Pap test, G. N. Papanicolaou. A precursor to her first book, Sex and the Social Order (1946), was a 1944 study conducted by Dr. Seward debunking the myth of menstrual invalidism, demonstrating no impact of the menstrual cycle on working women (Seward, 2000).

After leaving Connecticut College, Dr. Seward taught at Simmons College while her husband was at Boston University. After accepting positions at the University of Southern California (USC), Dr. Seward taught social and personality psychology in addition to teaching clinical psychology and running the clinical training program  at USC (Stevens, 1982). Dr. Seward became a diplomate in clinical psychology and began working in private practice in addition to her teaching duties. She also consulted to the Veterans Administration Hospital, Metropolitan State Hospital, and the Did Hirsch Mental Health Clinic. Two of her numerous publications — Psychotherapy and Culture Conflict (1956) and Clinical Studies in Culture Conflict (1958) — explored neurotic tendencies and the stress induced by being a member of a minority group. Seward would remain at USC until 1972 when she retired as professor emerita, but continued her private practice for another 15 years (Seward, 2000). In the 1970s, she received the 1987 Distinguished Psychologist Award by the California State Psychological Association. 

An ardent supporter of other female psychologists and encouraged them to pursue leadership positions in the field and as a victim of sex discrimination, a researcher devoted to issues critical to women, and an early advocate of women seeking mental health treatment from female therapists, Dr. Seward will remain a role model for feminist psychologists.

Selected Publications

  • Seward, G. H. (1944). Psychological effects of the menstrual cycle on women workers. Psychological Bulletin, 41(2), 90-102. 

  • Seward, G. H. (1946). Sex and the social order. New York: McGraw Hill. 

  • Seward, G. H. (1956). Psychotherapy and culture conflict. New York: Ronald Press. 

  • Seward, G. H. (1958). Clinical studies in culture conflict. New York: Ronald Press. 

  • Seward, G. H. & Seward, J. P. (Eds.). (1958). Current psychological issues: Essays in honor of Robert S. Woodworth. New York: Holt. 

  • Seward, G. H. & Williamson, R. (Eds.). (1970). Sex roles in changing society. New York: Random House. 

  • Seward, G. H. (1977). Sex roles in cross-cultural perspective. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 285(1), 612-617. 

  • Seward, G. H. & Seward, J. P. (1980). Sex differences: Mental and temperamental. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Sargent, S. S. (1993). Georgene H. Seward (1902-1992). American Psychologist, 48(10), 1089.

Seward, G. H. (1902-1992). (2000). In M. B. Ogilvie, & J. D. Harvey (Eds.), The biographical dictionary of women in science: Pioneering lives from ancient times to the mid-20th century. New York: Routledge.

Stevens, G. & Gardner, S. (1982). Feminist: Georgene Hoffman Seward (1902-). In The women of psychology, Volume II: Expansion and refinement (pp. 139-143). Cambridge, MA: Schenkman Publishing Company.