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Janet Allison Taylor Spence, PhD

Psychology Department, 1949-1960
Janet Allison Taylor Spence, PhD

Janet Allison Taylor (1923-2015) earned a PhD in psychology at the University of Iowa in 1949. Dr. Taylor was the first woman hired by the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University as an instructor. She rose to the rank of associate professor of psychology, but later learned that her appointment was an experiment, one which was expected to fail.

She left the university to marry Kenneth Spence, an psychologist and professor and the couple moved to the University of Iowa and then University of Texas at Austin. However, the newly married Janet Taylor Spence’s career was stalled. She could not return to work due to nepotism policies. These forbid husband and wife from working at the same institution, but after a residency at the V.A. hospital, Dr. Taylor reentered academia and developed the Taylor Manifest Anxiety scale, which is still used today to gauge individuals’ anxiety levels.

Dr. Taylor eventually switched her focus to gender related phenomena, publishing works like, “Gender identity and its implications for the concepts of masculinity and femininity” and “Masculinity & femininity: Their psychological dimensions, correlates, and antecedents.”