It feels as though most of the time when thinking about psychology and the great contributions that have been made to it, that most of them have been from men, but along the way there have been several influential women that have contributed to the field of psychology as well. Just like men, there were several women who were pioneers, theorists, and counselors; many of these women have contributed to the field of psychology in their own special between the years of 1850 and 1950. Of all these amazing women who are pioneers, theorists, and counselors, the one who stands out the most is Anna Freud. This paper will go on to explain Anna Freud’s background, her theoretical perspective, and contributions to the field of psychology.
Anna Freud was born December 3, 1895. She was born to Martha and Sigmund Freud, the youngest of six children. Anna had a very close relationship with her father all throughout her life, but was distant with her mother and most of her other siblings, but had an even worse relationship with her older sister Sophie, who was just two and a half years older than her. Anna referred to her as her rival. In 1912 Anna finished her education at the Cottage Lyceum in Vienna, but was still unsure of a career. She felt as if she had not learned that much from school; most of her education came from her father’s friends and colleagues. After college Anna went to England in 1914 to improve her English and later on became an elementary school teacher. (“Anna Freud – Life,” n.d.)
By 1910 Anna was already involved in psychoanalysis because she was reading her father, Sigmund Freud’s work, but she did not become seriously involved until he began psychoanalyzing her in 1918. This was completely normal for a father to analyze his daughter; it was before any type of orthodoxy was established. In 1920 the two of them attended the International Psychoanalytical Congress at The Hague; by now the two of them had the same work and friends in common. One of their common friends was writer and psychoanalyst Lou Andreas-Salome. “Anna’s literary interests paved the way for her future career. “The more I became interested in psychoanalysis,” she wrote “the more I saw it as a road to the same kind of broad and deep understanding of huan nature that writers possess.” (“Anna Freud – Life,” n.d.).
In 1922 Anna became a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society by presenting them with her paper, “Beating Fantasies and Daydreams”. By 1923 she was practicing her own psychoanalysis with children and two years later she was teaching a seminar at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Training Institute on the technique of child analysis. All of her work resulted in her writing a book, which was a series of lectures that was directed towards teachers and parents entitled: “Introduction to the Technique of Child Analysis (1927: American 1928) “Later she was to say of this period: “Back then in Vienna we were all so excited – full of energy: it was as if a whole new continent was being explored, and we were the explorers, and we now had a chance to chance things…” (“Anna Freud – Life,” n.d.).
Anna’s father grew extremely ill from cancer in 1923 and became very dependent on her care and nursing. Sigmund eventually needed treatment, but that was in Berlin, and they were in Vienna, therefore Anna accompanied her father to Berlin for his treatment. It was because of Sigmund Freud’s illness that a “Secret Committee” was formed to protect psychoanalysis against attacks; Anna was a member for sure, the members were given rings as a token of their trust. After her father’s death she took one of his rings and turned it into a brooch. (“Anna Freud – Life,” n.d.)
Between the years of 1927 and 1934 Anna was General Secretary of the International Psychoanalytical Association; she continued to work on her child analysis practice, as well as held seminars on the subject, organized conferences, and when at home she continued to take care of her sickly father. “She also acted as his public representative at such public occasions as the dedication of a plaque at his birthplace in Freiberg for his award of the Goethe Prize in Frankfurt” (“Anna Freud – Life,” n.d.).
In 1935 Anna became the director of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Training Institute and the following year she published another book, which was a very influential study of the “ways and means by which the ego wards off unpleasure and anxiety”, called The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense. This book was different from the “traditional bases of psychoanalytical through in the drives: it became a founding work of ego psychology and established her reputation as a pioneering theoretician” (“Anna Freud – Life,” n.d.).
In the 1930’s the economic and political situation had become worse and Anna was very concerned by he situation of the poor and involved herself along with her lifelong friend, Dorothy Burlingham, in charitable initiatives. In 1937 Anna was able to combine charitable events with her own work. Edith Jackson funded a nursery school for children of the poor in Vienna that Anna and Dorothy decided to run. While in charge there, Anna was able to observe infant behavior and experiment with their feeding patterns.
The children were allowed to choose their own food, had freedom, and organized their own playtime. “Though some of the children’s parents had been reduced to begging, Anna wrote “… we were very struck by the fact that they brought the children to us, not because we fed and clothed them and kept them for the length of the day, but because “they learned so much”, i.e. they learned to move freely, to eat independently, to speak, to express their preferences, etc. To our surprise the parents valued this beyond everything” (“Anna Freud – Life,” n.d.).
Unfortunately in 1938 the nursery had to be closed because Austria had been taken over by the Nazis and the Freud family had to flee the country, regardless of Sigmund’s health. Ernest Jones and Princess Marie Bonaparte provided a very large part in the assistance in obtaining the emigration papers, but it was Anna who had to deal with the Nazi bureaucracy and organize the practicalities of the family’s emigration to London. Once back in London, Anna quickly settled into her new home and began working, “England is indeed a civilized country,” she wrote, “and I am naturally grateful that we are here. There is no pressure of any kind and there is a great deal of space and freedom ahead.” (“Anna Freud – Life,” n.d.).
In early September of 1939 a war broke out and only a few weeks later Anna’s father Sigmund Freud passed away. By this time, Anna had already established a new practice and was lecturing about child psychology in English. Child analysis was untouched territory in the 1920’s and 1930’s’ two of her mentors in child psychology, Siegfried Bernfeld and August Aichhorn, both had practical experience of dealing with children, but Melanie Klein had evolved her own theory and technique of child analysis.
Anna and Melanie had differed in the sense of Melanie’s timing and development of object relations and internalized structures, she “also put the oedipal stage much earlier and then considered the death drive to be of fundamental important in infancy” (“Anna Freud – Life,” n.d.). After Anna’s arrival in London, the conflict between her and Melanie is was split the British Psychoanalytical Society, but was resolved through “a series of war-time “Controversial Discussions” that ended with the formation of parallel training courses for the two groups” (“Anna Freud – Life,” n.d.).
From the 1950’s until her death, Anna travelled regularly to the United States to lecture, teach, and visit friends. She passed away in the year 1982 at the age of 87. (“Anna Freud – Life,” n.d.) All through out Anna’s life she followed in her fathers footsteps; they always had a very close relationship, because she was not very close with any other member of her family. Anna aided her father with several of his theories, one that she helped significantly on was his defense mechanisms. The two were not just father and daughter, they were also colleagues. (The Evolution of Psychoanalytic Theory. (2009).
There are several women who have greatly impacted the field of psychology who were theorists, pioneers, and counselors. Anna Freud is just one of the many women who have significantly impacted the field of psychology with her experiments. Anna was a great theorist who studied children and defense mechanisms with her father. Anna Freud has not only made a great impact in the field of psychology, but a great impact on adoption, which all started in her wartime studies of British Children, when they were separated from their parents for their safety. (The Adoption History, 2009).
Anna Freud – Life and Work of Anna Freud. (n.d.). Freud Museum of London.
Retrieved December 16, 2012, from http://www.freud.org.uk/education/topic/
The Adoption History Project. (2009). Retrieved December 16, 2012, from
http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~adoption/people/AnnaFreud.htm The Evolution of Psychoanalytic Theory. (2009).Mental Illness and its Treatment (pp.