This is how it all began.
Of course, newer members of MWP are most interested in what the organization offers them now. But they may may not know about the history (or “herstory,” as we routinely called it).
In the early summer of 1977 Dr. Dorothy Loeffler sent out a letter to women members of Minnesota Psychological Association, inviting them to attend an informal gathering, in conjunction with MPA’s Annual Meeting. The invitation received impetus from Dorothy’s involvement with the American Psychological Association’s Division 17 Committee on Women during that year. About 70 women showed up.
The issues that Dorothy suggested we might be interested in were: therapist competencies, job-seeking for women psychologists, counseling women clients, research on women, information on courses and workshops, and support networks.
At the end of that morning meeting, it was apparent that there was the nucleus of something exciting. The group began by focusing on sharing information, expertise-sharing by workshops, outreach to regional areas, and on encouraging graduate student involvement. (Char Follett, later for 17 years our Newsletter Editor, was one of the graduate students at that initial meeting.)
We began with a membership of 65, and this number doubled by the following year. The following spring MWP presented at MPA’s 1978 Annual Meeting on “Women’s Health Issues.” A few weeks later we held our first MWP Retreat; the topic was Private Practice.
We started support groups for ourselves. We soon planned colloquia on women’s systems in organizations, personal power, and women’s treatment resources. Cohesiveness was building. In another year we developed another colloquium with Minnesota Women Lawyers on “Women at Risk: Economic and Social Policy.”
Also, in 1979 volunteer members first offered a “course” on preparing for the exam required for licensure as a psychologist. The organization was intended to coalesce psychologists, though eventually other licensed mental health professionals became associate members. By 1979, we also had started a Newsletter, on paper, of course.
The second wave of the women’s movement was a key factor in our passion for issues affecting women. MWP was unique, with only two other similar organizations in the country existing. MWP’s identity was as a feminist organization. We were proud that women psychologists now had a voice, and we used it. An example: In 1979, just two years after its founding, MWP sent a letter to Governor Albert Quie, expressing dismay that four recent appointments to the Board of Psychology had all been men, and noting that three women of eleven members was hardly equal representation.
By the time of our 20th Anniversary in 1997, our membership had reached 500.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Since a feminist principle was inclusivity, there was “some agonizing” (Denise Wilder wrote then) about how to serve women psychologists outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. So MWP actually had a Central Minnesota Chapter for a few years. We also focused on inclusivity by developing an inclusivity policy in the hope to educate and influence change in less inclusive organizations.
Given MWP’s interest in violence against women, we were passionate about the Take Back the Night March, held for several years through downtown Minneapolis.
The biggest issue to confront MWP in its first 20 years was the debate between single or dual level licensure for psychologists. Minnesota had been unique in allowing a path for master’s prepared clinicians to become psychologists, but that ended in 1991 with a change in the licensure laws. In that year the Steering Committee decided on a change in our name, to Minnesota Women in Psychology. Now the membership is officially composed of all women licensed and working on eligibility for licensure, in Minnesota, in mental health fields.
In a time of low membership, eight women emerged (affectionately dubbed the “Gang of Eight”) and agreed to create a new vision for the organization, while ten additional women agreed to volunteer at least 100 hours of time over the next year. Jill Strunk and Sharon Stein-McNamara stepped in to co-chair, and MWP set about rebuilding itself. The former Steering Committee was now named the Executive Committee.
Two active subcommittees — Membership and Professional Development — and their chairs, Laura Tripet-Dodge and Kim Carter served on an interim Executive Committee, and started a rescue mission. Leadership was again stretched thin, but by 2013, we had names on the ballot and were back in working order.
Over the past few years, Minnesota Women in Psychology has re-emerged as a vibrant and relevant organization with dynamic leadership and growing membership. At last count, we had about 260 members, including 28 students and 16 retirees. Let’s all pitch in to keep this amazing organization alive and well. Perhaps we could challenge ourselves to be back up to 500 members strong for our 50th Anniversary. Let’s keep the herstory going!
Cathy Skrip, Past Chair