Ruth Winifred Howard

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For the Canadian artist, see Ruth Howard (artist).
Ruth Howard
Ruth Winifred Howard.jpg
Born March 25, 1900
Washington D.C.
Died February 12, 1997(1997-02-12) (aged 96)
Washington D.C.
Occupation Psychologist
Known for First African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in Psychology
Spouse(s) Albert Sidney Beckham

Ruth Winifred Howard Beckham (March 25, 1900 – February 12, 1997) was the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate degree (Ph.D.) in psychology.[1][2] She was active in many psychology organizations and received instruction from Florence Goodenough.[3]

Early life[edit]

Ruth Winifred Howard was born in Washington D.C. on March 25, 1900.[4] She was the daughter of Reverend William J. Howard and his wife Alverda Brown Howard, and she had 7 siblings. As a child, she enjoyed reading and aspired to be a librarian.[2] In 1916, she graduated from the old M Street High school, now known as Dunbar High School.[5]

Education and career[edit]

After graduating from high school, Beckham attended Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts where she majored in social work. In 1921, she received her bachelor's degree and moved to Cleveland, Ohio where she began her work as a social worker. Shortly after, she went back to Simmons College and received her master's degree in 1927. Beckham received the Laura Spelman Rockefeller fellowship in 1929 and again in 1930. With this fellowship, she attended the Teacher's College and School of Social Work at Columbia University from 1929-1930 and studied child psychology at the Child Development Institute at the University of Minnesota from 1930-1934. In 1934, she received her PhD in psychology and child development from the University of Minnesota. Beckham studied the development of triplets for her doctoral dissertation and concluded that triplets were less developed in general abilities compared to single children. She received an internship at the Illinois Institute for Juvenile Research after receiving her doctorate and eventually began her own clinical psychology based private practice. From 1940-1964, Beckham co-directed the Center for Psychological Services along with her husband, Albert Sidney Beckham. During this time, Beckham also held the staff psychologist position at the Provident Hospital School of Nursing in Chicago. Additionally, she held the position of a psychological consultant at Florida and Missouri schools of nursing while lecturing, working at psychology clinics and consulting for other organizations. From 1964-1966, she worked at the McKinley Center for Retarded Children as a psychologist. Afterwards, she worked at Worthington and Hurst Psychological Consultants as a staff psychologist until 1968. After that, she held became a psychologist for the Chicago Board of Health until 1972.[2]

Personal life[edit]

In 1934, she married Albert Sidney Beckham.[5] and moved to Chicago, Illinois, where she remained until 1987. She died on February 12, 1997 in Washington, DC.[6]


  1. ^ "Featured Psychologist: Ruth Howard, PhD". American Psychological Association. Retrieved 23 March 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Patrick, Moore (1999). Notable Black American Scientists. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale Research. pp. 22–23. ISBN 0-7876-2789-5. 
  3. ^ Saltzman, Ann L. (Spring 2001). "Ruth Winifred Howard* (1900-1997)". The Feminist Psychologist, Newsletter of the Society for the Psychology of Women, Division 35 of the American Psychological Association, Volume 28, Number 2,. 
  4. ^ Held, Lisa (2010). "Profile of Ruth Howard". Psychology's Feminist Voices Multimedia Internet Archive. 
  5. ^ a b Guthrie, R.V. (1998). p. 178.
  6. ^ Saltzman, Ann L. "Biography of Ruth Winifred Howard". American Psychological Association. Society for the Psychology of Women. Retrieved 23 March 2014.