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Profile

Evelyn Gentry Hooker

Birth:
1907

Death:
1996

Training Location(s):

PhD, Johns Hopkins University, (1932)

MA, University of Colorado, (1930)

BA, University of Colorado, (1928)



Primary Affiliation(s):

University of California, Los Angeles, (1939-1970)



Media Links:
Archive

Evelyn Cadwell Hooker Papers, 1910-1997, Special Collection, Young Library. University of California, Los Angeles, CA.

Website

UC Davis Psychology's Evelyn Hooker Page.

Interview

Audio Interview with Hooker at "Making Gay History"


Biography:

 

Career Focus: Homosexuality; personality assessment; clinical psychology.


 

Evelyn Gentry Hooker was born on September 2, 1907 in North Palette, Nebraska.  When she was young, her family moved to Sterling, Colorado, where she spent most of her childhood years. Her family was not wealthy, but she was lucky enough to receive a scholarship to the University of Colorado at Boulder. Hooker began her studies in 1924, and completed her BA in 1928. During her undergraduate years, her talent was noticed by Karl Muenzinger, and he took her on as a Master's student. After she received her MA in 1930, Muenzinger recommended her for the PhD program at Johns Hopkins. Hooker quickly completed her studies, and was awarded her doctorate in 1932. Following her graduation, she took on a few short-term teaching appointments. However, in 1934 she fell ill with tuberculosis and was hospitalized for two years.

 

In 1937, Hooker was given an opportunity to go to Germany for a year as a visiting fellow at the Berlin Institute for Psychotherapy. Upon her return, she applied to work in the psychology department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She was told that they already had three women on the faculty, and that they had no need for any others. Instead, she was given a teaching position with the UCLA Extension Program. In the end, Hooker never needed to join the full-time faculty - she was supported by her own research grants.

 

While teaching an introductory psychology course at UCLA, one of Hooker's students, Sam From, approached her with a delicate matter. He confided in her that he was gay, as were several of his friends.  He and Hooker established a close relationship,  and he took her to clubs, bars and parties. With his encouragement, she took up a study of 'normal gay men'. At that time, such a thing was unheard of, as psychologists (and society at large) viewed homosexuality as inherently pathological. Her proposed research program was especially dangerous, as she applied for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) grant during the height of the extremely conservative McCarthy era. John Eberhart, the head of extramural grants, personally came to visit with her after receiving her application. He was not fully convinced that she would find normal homosexual males to conduct her study, but he found her charming and awarded her the grant. Hooker has reflected on this meeting, and believed that if she was anyone else other than who she was - a married, heterosexual female - the project never would have gone ahead, and she may have even been investigated in the McCarthy trials. However, as far as she knows, no one ever questioned her work in such a way.

 

In order to protect the anonymity of her participants, Hooker conducted all of her research out of her home. She recruited gay male participants through organizations such as the Mattachine Society, and personal friends of other participants. Once she had recruited 30 homosexual males, she then recruited 30 heterosexual males. Each were matched for age, IQ, and years of education. They were all given the Rorschach Inkblot Test, the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), and the Make-A-Picture-Story (MAPS) test. Hooker submitted the test responses from each set of matched pairs to experts in assessment, with all personal identifiers removed. She found that these experts were unable to determine which of the pairs were heterosexual and which were homosexual. The only conclusion which could be reached was that both heterosexual and homosexual men were equally psychologically well-adjusted.

 

Hooker's results cast serious doubt on the view of homosexuality as pathology. Following the publication of her initial studies in the late 1950s, and subsequent ethnographic studies in the 1960s, she was asked to put together and lead the NIMH Task Force on Homosexuality. In 1969 the task force produced a report indicating that homosexuality should be considered neither pathological nor criminal. In the 1970s, the report and her earlier studies became a crucial element in the decision to have homosexuality removed from the DSM-III.

 

Hooker has left behind an impressive legacy. After being awarded the NIMH Career Research Award in 1961, many others followed. The American Psychological Association recognized her contributions in 1991 by giving her the Distinguished Contribution in the Public Interest Award. Following that, the University of Chicago opened the Evelyn Hooker Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies. She was also the subject of the 1992 Academy Award nominated film, Changing Our Minds: The Story of Dr. Evelyn Hooker.

 

Hooker also founded a very special award. In 1992, she received a phone call - Wayne Placek, one of the gay male participants in her original study, had died and bequeathed to her a $500,000 fund. His intention for this fund was that Hooker would set it up as a research award to help combat homophobia. In 1994, the Wayne Placek Trust was established under the auspices of the American Psychological Foundation (APF), and has been contributing to gay and lesbian studies in psychology ever since. In 2000, the APF expanded this to a program set up as the Evelyn Hooker Program, to fund research that was consistent with her goals and values.

 

Beyond her considerable awards, and monetary contributions to the field, Hooker is also remembered as a mentor. She has been an important role-model and teacher to many counselors, clinical psychologists, and researchers working with homosexual clients. She has also been a friend and confidante to many homosexual men and women working within the field.

 

Hooker passed away on November 18, 1996 at the age of 89. She is remembered for her contributions to psychology, and - more significantly - to the LGBT community. Over and above her work, Hooker will be remembered as "a strikingly handsome woman, with a wonderfully full voice and a prepossessing, room-filling laugh. She was packed with zeal, but she was not a zealot; she was filled with laughter, but she was not a fool; she was beset with vicissitudes, but she was not a coward; she was a bear for Judeo-Christian morality, but she was not a prude. She gave her embracing affection to dozens, hundreds..." (Shneidman, 1998, p. 480-481).

 

by Laura Ball (2010)

To cite this article, see Credits


Selected Works:
By Evelyn Hooker

Hooker, E. (1958). The adjustment of the male overt homosexual. Journal of Projective Techniques, 21, 18-31.

 

Hooker, E. (1958). Male homosexuality in the Rorschach. Journal of Projective Techniques, 22, 33-54.

 

Hooker, E. (1968). Sexual behavior: Homosexuality. In D. L. Sills (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (pp. 222-223). New York: Macmillan.

 

Hooker, E. (1993). Reflections of a 40-year exploration: A scientific view on homosexuality. American Psychologist, 48, 450-453.

About Evelyn Hooker

Boxer, A. M., & Carrier, J. M. (1998). Evelyn Hooker: A life remembered. Journal of Homosexuality, 36, 1-17.

 

Floyd, J. Q., & Szymanski, L. A. (2007). Evelyn Gentry Hooker: The "hopelessly heterosexual" psychologist who normalized heterosexuality. In E. A Gavin, A. Clamar, & M. A. Siderits (Eds.), Women of vision: Their psychology, circumstances, and success (pp. 177-188). New York, NY: Springer.

 

Harrison, J. (Producer), & Schmiechen, R. (Director). (1991). Changing our minds: The story of Dr. Evelyn Hooker [Film/Video]. (Distributed by Fameline, 346 Ninth St., San Francisco, CA, 94103; http://www.frameline.org.)

 

Hegarty, P. (2006). Hooker, Evelyn. In D. A. Gerstner (Ed.), Routledge International Encyclopedia of Queer Culture (pp. 284). London, UK: Routledge.

 

Humphreys, L. (1978). An interview with Evelyn Hooker. Alternative Lifestyles, 1, 191-206.

 

Kimmel, D. C., & Garnets, L. D. (2000). What a light it shed: The life of Evelyn Hooker. In G. A. Kimble & M. Wertheimer (Eds.), Portraits of Pioneers in Psychology (Vol. 4; pp. 252-267). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

 

Shneidman, E. S. (1998). Evelyn Hooker (1907-1996). American Psychologist, 53, 480-481.