Joyce Brothers

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Joyce Brothers
Joyce Brothers NYWTS.jpg
Joyce Brothers in 1957
Joyce Diane Bauer

(1927-10-20)October 20, 1927
DiedMay 13, 2013(2013-05-13) (aged 85)
Resting placeBeth David Cemetery, Elmont, New York
Alma materCornell University (BA)
Columbia University (Ph.D)
Advice columnist
Years active1955–2013
Spouse(s)Milton Brothers (1949–89; his death; 1 child)

Joyce Diane Brothers (October 20, 1927- May 13, 2013) was an American psychologist, television personality, and columnist. She first became famous in 1955 for winning the top prize on the American game show The $64,000 Question, being the only woman to do so.[1] Her fame from the game show allowed her to go on to host various advice columns and television shows, which established her as a pioneer in the field of "pop (popular) psychology" . She is often credited as being the first to normalize psychological concepts to the American mainstream.[1] The syndicated columns she hosted were featured in both newspapers and magazines, including a monthly column Good Housekeeping , in which she contributed for nearly 40 years [2] As Brothers quickly became the "face of psychology" for American audiences, she often appeared in various television roles, usually as herself.[3] From the 1970s onward, she also began to accept roles portraying fictional characters which were often self-parodies of her "woman psychologist" persona, which the public came to know her for.[4] She is noted for working continuously for five decades across various genres.[1] Brothers was recognized as a result of her strong female lead in the psychological field with awards like Professional Woman of the Year, and Business and Professional Women's Club despite the struggles to de-stigmatize psychology in television facing the obstacle of the culture towards women.

Family and personal relationships[edit]

Joyce Diane Brothers was born to Morris K. Bauer and Estelle Rapport, who were attorneys that shared a law practice (note that this sentence is from original wiki article, we have not added or changed it, we have just kept in this draft to help with understanding the logical flow of this paragraph). She grew up in a Jewish household in Far Rockaway, Queens, New York.[2] Brothers also had a sister named Elaine Goldsmith whom she was close with.[3] Joyce Brothers describes that growing up, her father treated her like the son, even having decided to name her "Joseph" instead of Joyce before she was born.[1] As a result, Brothers grew up in an environment in which her status as a female made no difference in the family's expectations of high academic excellence for all their children.[2] Consequently, she was often described as being a studious person, thriving on "hard work and academic achievement".[2]

In 1949, Brothers married Milton Brothers who later went on to became an internist.[1] In 1989, Brothers lost her husband due to bladder cancer.[5] Following the death of her husband, Brothers fell into a state of depression for a year, and contemplated suicide; however, she used her work to achieve inner peace and recover.[2] With her husband, she had a daughter. Brothers was also close to her four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.[3]

Early education[edit]

Brothers graduated from Far Rockaway High School in January 1944.[1] Afterwards, she entered Cornell University, double-majoring in home economics and psychology and graduated with honors in 1947.[1] Brothers was a member of Sigma Delta Tau sorority at the time (this sentence was taken from original wiki page and has not been altered, but has been kept in this draft to help add a deeper context to this subsection). While working on her graduate studies (from 1948-1953) at Columbia University (A.M., 1949; Ph.D., 1953), she was a research assistant at Columbia, an instructor at Hunter College and a research fellow on a UNESCO leadership project from 1949–1959.[1] Later, she earned her Ph.D. degree in psychology from Columbia University, completing a dissertation that was titled "Anxiety Avoidance and Escape Behaviour as Measured by Action Potential in Muscle".[2] The American Association of University Women AAUW awarded Brothers the American Fellowship in 1952, which enabled her to complete the doctoral degree.[1]


Licensure as a psychologist[edit]

As a psychologist, Brothers had been licensed in New York since 1958 (sentence from original wiki article but kept in this draft as a suggestion that this should be under its own subsection).

Television and radio[edit]

$64,000 Question (1955)[edit]

Joyce Brothers' first television appearance was at the age of 28. At that time, her husband was making $50 a month as a medical intern at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York which was not enough to support themselves and their young three-year-old daughter at the time.[1] To escape what Brothers called the "slum-like conditions" of her New York City walk up, she was driven to enter as a contestant on the game show, The $64,000 Question.[1] The $64,000 Question was one of the top charting shows of the time and possessed the largest jackpot of all the current quiz shows.[1]

To become a contestant, Brothers had to write a letter stating a description of herself, the hobbies she immersed herself in, why she would make a great contestant and what she would do if she were to carry forth with the winnings.[1] Eventually, the letter landed her an interview with Mert Koplin, the show's producer.[1] While in her letter she discussed her qualifications in the field of psychology and home economics she was not allowed to use her expert knowledge for the show as The $64,000 Question did not allow participants to be quizzed on topics of their expertise or profession.[1] As such, Brothers had to come up with a new topic area for her to be quizzed on for the show.[1]

With the gender roles of the time in mind, Koplin thought he could draw in the most viewership by juxtaposing Brother's perceived frailty as a woman with the idea that she knew a great deal about a more masculine field.[6] He is credited with saying Brothers should be given a topic on "something that [she] shouldn't know about... [something like] if it were football or if it were horse racing or boxing..."[1]

Brothers' husband was a great fan of boxing, so she decided to go with the topic of boxing for the show.[1] Memorizing twenty-volume boxing encyclopedias, many years worth of Ring Magazine issues, alongside working with the writer Nat "Mr. Boxing Himself" Fleischer.[1] She also had the opportunity to be coached by former Olympic boxing champion and New York State Athletic Commissioner Edward P.F Egan.[1] After studying, she progressed on the show for several weeks. Despite efforts to stump her at the $16,000 mark by asking questions involving referees rather than the boxers themselves, she exceeded expectations and won the top prize.[3]

Brothers used her photographic memory and focus to learn everything she could, and quickly became regarded as an expert in the subject area of boxing.[1] Her success on The $64,000 Question earned Brothers a chance to be the color commentator for CBS during the boxing match between Carmen Basilio and Sugar Ray Robinson (this sentence is taken from original wiki article and has been kept in the draft to provide more context to this subsection). She was said to have been the first woman boxing commentator (this sentence is taken from original wiki article and has been kept in the draft to provide more context to this subsection).

Two years later, Brothers appeared on a spin-off series of The $64,000 Challenge, which brought in the winners of The $64,000 Question[1] and matched them against experts in the field. Again, Brothers walked off with the maximum prize, winning against seven other competitors.[1]

While The $64,000 Questions and The $64,000 Challenge later came out with cheating scandals of some contestants only pretending to be novices to their respective topic, Brothers was one of the contestants who was cleared of cheating allegations.[1]

Sports Showcase (1956)[edit]

After the success of the quiz show, Brothers co-hosted the Sports Showcase with journalist Max Kase. This made her one of the first female sports commentators.[1]

Local afternoon show on NBC’s WRCA-TV[edit]

Brothers' wish to use her platform to practice psychology was provided through reading letters from people that submitted it to the radio.[1] This opportunity was provided on a four-week basis on NBC's WRCA-TV.[1]

Appearances on talk shows[edit]

Brothers appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson as a means for the public to get to know her more than the advice columns.[1] With more than ninety appearances on the show, she provided detailed psychological updates on the accounts of the current social climate of that time.[1] She also appeared on daytime television programs like Good Morning America, Today, Entertainment Tonight, and CNN as well as late-night television shows with Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, and Conan O’Brien, amongst many others, including The Steve Allen Show and The Dick Cavett Show.[1]

Living Easy with Dr. Joyce Brothers, her own Talk Show (1973)[edit]

In efforts to market and promote their new textile fibre Trevira polyester, a German chemical company, Hoecht, provided Joyce Brothers with her own show.[1] While Brothers had the opportunity to host her own show and allow the public to learn more about her, the show's ultimate function was to promote Trevira and the company's latest fashions.[1] This was evident in almost aspect of the show, from when Brothers would casually segue her discussions onto the topic of fashion, to the very set itself which was decorated entirely in the Trevira fabric.[1]

Initially the show was located at the heart of Broadway Theatre Distinct in New York but by its second year it moved to Studio 6B at 30 Rockefeller Centre.[1] The show, titled Living Easy with Dr. Joyce Brothers, consisted of things like guest interviews, musical performances, how-to-demos and a weekly segment dedicated to psychology.[3] For three years the show ran 200 shows, across 150 stations.[1] Despite its run of three years, the show did face criticisms from stakeholders and the public who believed there was not enough focus on psychology and that Brothers was failing to adequately incorporate her psychological expertise.[1]

Dr. Joyce Brothers Show (1985)[edit]

A decade after Living Easy with Dr. Joyce Brothers , Brothers premiered a new show. It consisted of 16 one-hour weekly installments on the Disney Channel.[1] This would be her first appearance on cable television.[1] The themes surrounding the show were family oriented, with each show consisting of a comedian and a special guest star, and calls from viewers to provide advice from a psychological and educational standpoint.[1]

By August 1958, Brothers was given her own television show on a New York station, but her topic was not sports; she began doing an advice show about relationships, during which she answered questions from the audience. Sponsors were nervous about whether a television psychologist could succeed, she recalled, but viewers expressed their gratitude for her show, telling her she was giving them the information they could not get elsewhere.[1]

Joyce Brothers covered a variety of topics, including: prognosis for the American football, the psychology of football, women's changing clothing styles, HIV and AIDS, school shootings, and more.[1] In essence, Brothers brought psychology to the mainstream media.[5]

Brothers presented syndicated advice shows on both television and radio, during a broadcasting career that lasted more than four decades. Her shows changed names numerous times, from The Dr. Joyce Brothers Show to Consult Dr. Brothers to Tell Me, Dr. Brothers to Ask Dr. Brothers to Living Easy with Dr. Joyce Brothers (sentence from the original wiki page but has been kept in this draft to provide context to this subsection). In 1964, she interviewed and posed for publicity photographs with the Beatles on their first visit to the United States (sentence from the original wiki page but has been kept in this draft to provide context to this subsection).

Newspaper and books[edit]

Brothers also had a monthly column in Good Housekeeping for almost four decades and a syndicated newspaper column that she began writing in the 1970s, which at its height was printed in more than 300 newspapers. She also published several books including the 1981 book, What Every Woman Should Know About Men, and the 1991 book, Widowed, inspired by the loss of her husband. Her advice was also used as a source for some questions on the 1998–2004 incarnation of Hollywood Squares (this paragraph is rom the original wiki page but has been kept in this draft to provide context to this subsection).

Joyce Brothers conducted self promotion and was seemingly skilled in navigating the male-dominated media industry.[5] In addition to her television and radio presence, Brothers wrote best-selling books; these books included advice on how to achieve a successful marriage and career.[1]


Social conversation[edit]

She was viewed as the public crisis counselor, as she was asked to comment on issues like Princess Diana's death and, the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle.[1]

Joyce Brothers addressed homosexuality in 1972, and the transgender community in 1959, easing her viewers into it from the prior standpoint in which they were raised with. After the 1999 Columbine School Shooting, she was persistent on CNN, for gun control legislation[1].

More memorable episodes of her advice shows include when she helped a man on air who called in contemplating suicide as a result of being blind in one eye and nearly blind in the other.[1] Her efforts included keeping him on air for thirty minutes—long enough for National Save-A-Life to contact.[1] Another similar episode aired in 1971 when a woman called in and was threatening to overdose on sleeping pills. As this was a riveting circumstance, the show was left running for 3 more hours after uninterrupted, so that Brothers was able to extract a phone number from the woman to get an ambulance to her.[1]


Upon receiving acceptance into Columbia University for her Ph.D, the dean of her department, stated although her qualifications were impeccable, she was taking the position of a man who would use the degree, and it would be best if she dropped her position.[1] However, Brothers’ did not waiver and maintained her position.[1]

Despite this she was a product of the time evidence with her belief that her husband should be the breadwinner and thus gave up any notions of pursing a career in psychiatry for herself as it could mean being in competition with her husband.[1] Early in her career, when Brothers was asked by women for advice on when their husband would show interest in other women, Brothers was known to ask the caller to look at themselves and ask what they could do to be more like the women their husband seem to chase after.[1] Brothers later became more involved with issues of women's rights. In 1972, she was one of many who testified in front of the platform committee on women's issues, also serving as acting chair of a US delegation for the 16th assembly of the Inter-American Commission of Women.[1] In 1979, she provided proposals at the congressional hearing on "problems of mid-life women", speaking on employment, retirement income, and anti-ageism in television characters.[1]

Criticism, positive contributions, and awards[edit]

Controversy surrounding Brothers’ "Pop Psychology"[edit]

Increasing in fame, there was also a growth in disapproving psychologists and psychiatrists who questioned the validity of her psychological claims and her authority to be providing psychological advice.[2] A growing number of psychologists began to believe the advice she provided for her audience appeared was unethical as she did not hold any a clinical degree and the advice she was giving to was for strangers, not patients she had a professional relationship with.[1] Criticism by Stevens and Gardener, the authors of “Women of Psychology” stated as “traditional psychologists smile subtly when her name is mentioned and they often complain that she actually does more damage than good".[2] There were many efforts from some American Psychological Association  Members to revoke Brothers’ membership, as her advice was provided in a bad form.[4] Although it never came as far to this, Joyce Brothers did cause some uproar in the community.[1]

De-stigmatizing psychology[edit]

Despite the criticism, at the end of one of her TV appearance in December 1958, Roger Turtle and Joyce Brothers discussed the logistics behind the process of her TV appearances.[1] There were 15 hours spent preparing for each show, with consultations with other professionals and the breakdown of the grand field of psychology to be understood in terms of everyday language.[1] All this occurring behind the scenes, during the actual shows there were many references to scientific research and explicit statements that psychology is a service not simply a source of entertainment.[1] These shows provided a platform to "professionalize and de-stigmatize psychology".[1] Mental health was very stigmatized and not as covered in the media, but Joyce Brothers strived to contribute significantly to giving people a different perspective.[5] Her show allowed the public to view psychologists as real people.[6]

With an influx of letters from those that wanted advice from several topics like: marriage, parenting, work, money also other taboo topics like menopause, infidelity and sex.[5] Her light on these topics assisted in normalizing these within the mainstream media, with an explicit importance on therapy for everyday life and not only those with mental illness stated.[2]

Honors and awards[edit]

Brothers was also recognized with the following honors and awards: Women of Achievement Award, Federation of Jewish Women (1964); Professional Woman of the Year, Business and Professional Women's Club (1968); Award of the Parkinson Disease Foundation.[2] Joyce Brothers was also recognized not just by awards, but also in many different areas, Brothers was given an honorary degree, the L.H.D. which as from Franklin Pierce college in 1969.[2]

Death and legacy[edit]

Brothers died on May 13, 2013 at her home in Fort Lee. Her daughter, Lisa Brothers Arbisser, says she died of respiratory failure.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg Collins, K. (2016). Dr. Joyce Brothers: The founding mother of TV psychology. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Stevens, G., & Gardner, S. (1982). The women of psychology volume II: Expansion and Refinement . Cambridge, MA: Schenkman Publishing Company, Inc.
  3. ^ a b c d e Farley, Frank (2014). "Joyce Brothers (1927–2013)". American Psychologist. 69 (5): 550. doi:10.1037/a0036810. PMID 25046721.
  4. ^ a b "Ahead of her time". American Psychological Association. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  5. ^ a b c d e Gutgold, Nichola D. (2016). "Dr. Joyce Brothers: The founding mother of TV psychology". Journal of Communication. 66 (6): E12–E14. doi:10.1111/jcom.12262.
  6. ^ a b Rutherford, Alexandra (2018). "Kathleen Collins. Dr. Joyce Brothers: The founding mother of TV psychology. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016. 225 pp. $35.00 (Cloth). ISBN-13: 978-1442268692". Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. 54 (2): 145–146. doi:10.1002/jhbs.21901.
  7. ^ Dr. Joyce Brothers, 85; TV psychologist and columnist. (2019). Retrieved 4 November 2019, from

External links[edit]