Leta Stetter Hollingworth, born and educated in Nebraska, was a well-known New York psychologist during the early years of the twentieth century. She is best remembered today for contributions to child psychology and education, but she also did important research on the psychology of women.
Leta A. Stetter was born May 25, 1886, on a farm near Chadron, Nebraska. Her mother, Elinor Danley Stetter, died when Leta was three, and she was reared by her maternal grandparents. At age ten she moved with her grandparents to Chadron and two years afterward rejoined her father in Valentine, Nebraska. Following her graduation from Valentine High School in 1902, she entered the University of Nebraska.
Following graduation from the university at the age of nineteen, Stetter tried writing and teaching high school (at DeWitt and McCook). In 1908 she left Nebraska to marry Harry Hollingworth, a former classmate, in New York City. Hollingworth was a graduate assistant to the prominent psychologist James McKeen Cattell of Columbia University and undoubtedly interested his wife in the field of psychology.
In 1911 Leta began graduate work in educational psychology and earned her MA degree in 1913 from Columbia University. She became interested in the psychology and status of women and became known in New York as the “scientific pillar” of the women’s movement. She was a member of the Woman’s Suffrage Party and was active as a speaker for women’s rights.
Leta’s research on the psychology of women ended shortly after she received her doctoral degree in 1916. In the fall of that year she accepted a position at Columbia University Teachers College as an instructor in educational psychology. Here she became interested in the psychology of the exceptional child and devoted the remainder of her life to this field of study. Her textbook, The Psychology of the Adolescent, was used as the best source available for a number of years.
While she lived more than half her life in New York, she continued to cherish her ties to Nebraska. She died at the age of fifty-three and was buried in Lincoln.