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H. Lorraine Radtke


Training Location(s):

PhD, Carleton University, (1981)

MA, Carleton University, (1977)

BA, University of Calgary, (1974)

Primary Affiliation(s):

University of Calgary, (1982)

Media Links:
Professional Website

H. Lorraine Radtke at the University of Calgary


Psychology's Feminist Voices Oral History Transcript


Oral History Excerpt on YouTube: Feminist Identity

Oral History Excerpt on YouTube: Violence

Oral History Excerpt on YouTube: Discourse Analysis




Career Focusdiscourse analysis; mothering; intimate partner violence; femininity and women's health; constructions of gender; psychology of women; social psychology.


In describing herself as a feminist psychologist, Lorraine Radtke notes, "I can be contradictory and unpredictable, and I challenge the boundaries a little bit."  Radtke also describes herself as an "ordinary" feminist psychologist, because her political activism has been limited.  For Radtke, a feminist identity was a gradual process that in part began with her undergraduate training.  She completed her bachelor's degree at the University of Calgary in the 1970s during the second-wave of the women's movement.


Encouraged by both of her parents, who did not have such an opportunity, Radtke was the first member of her family to attend university.  Not recognizing classism as a disadvantage, she described, "it's not that I had a hard life or was disadvantaged in some particular way, but ... I didn't come from a solidly middle-class, well-educated family."  Her drive for higher education, and her decision to major in psychology, was inspired by stories of her mother's life.  Radtke recalls, "[my mother] had many stories about experiences where she was not allowed to do certain things because she was a woman, or because she was a married woman.  I had grown up with those stories and so I was very resistant, without being a feminist or having a feminist identity."  For Radtke, psychology was a means of resisting the narrow confines of what a woman or a girl 'should' do.  Psychology was seen as a 'science' and therefore a departure from the traditional paths expected of women, such nursing.   


Radtke pursued a PhD in cognitive psychology.  The PhD was an important accomplishment because Radtke did not grow up thinking she would ever attend university, let alone obtain this highest degree.  At the time of her graduate training cognitive psychology was a new sub-discipline.  Although it is generally a conservative, mainstream area of study, she describes her training as critical.  Her research focused on hypnotism, which at the time was characterized by heated theoretical debates, and her supervisor had a background in sociology.  These influences, paired with a graduate course on aggression by Fran Cherry, heightened Radtke's critical consciousness.  Radtke remembers that Cherry was very feminist and political in her teaching.  Cherry opened her up to the field of social psychology and critical thinking on gender 'differences'.  Reflecting on her graduate training, Radtke states that by the end of her degree she was "ready to become a feminist."                     


Following her graduate training Radtke taught at the University of Manitoba for a year before receiving a tenure-track position at the University of Calgary.  At both of these universities, she taught statistics and research methods, and had the opportunity to talk with and learn from feminist colleagues and students.  As a result, Radtke began to read more and more feminist work.  While conducting experimental research on hypnotism, she became more interested in the feminist critique of science.  Commenting on this turning point in her research, Radtke stated, "I think [if] you're reading a feminist critique of science, you're being exposed to feminist theorizing, in a way you can't help but start to think about what you're doing."


Radtke was unsatisfied with her experimental research.  She began a new researcher project where she coded structured interviews on women's ways of knowing, but felt as though she was imposing a structure on the interview transcripts that did not exist.   Exploring different ways of analyzing qualitative data, Radtke became interested in discourse analysis, which was transformative for her career.  She describes it not, "just as a move to another method, but as a kind of rethinking of psychology."  Today, Radtke is a social psychologist who uses discourse analysis as her primary method of research.   


As a young, untenured professor at the University of Calgary Radtke was encouraged by a colleague to establish the universities first psychology of gender course.  It was proposed conservatively as a psychology of gender differences course.  Despite its title, the course remained controversial.  However, Radtke had support from the Dean of general studies who argued the course would be significant across university departments.  Following much debate, the course was approved as the psychology of gender.  


Radtke is no stranger to the difficulties of family work balance.  Also prior to having the security of tenure, she gave birth to her first child.  She notes that both her and her partner having academic careers has been an advantage in terms of flexibility and access to resources.  She was part of the first generation of Canadian women with access to maternity leave, although it did not negate the anxiety of disclosing her pregnancy to the department.  While she could have waited for tenure to have a family, this was an era in which medical discourse warned about the dangers of childbirth over the age of thirty.         


As a professor Radtke has had the opportunity to mentor many students.  She believes that being a feminist shapes your perspective on the student/supervisor relationship.  She strives to ensure that the relationship is agreeable and collaborative and is careful not to take advantage of students.  When asked to offer advice to young feminist students in psychology, Radtke observed that the answer is individualistic.  She wants students to know that persistence is half the game.  However, in an honest manner, she believes there is nothing that one person could or should do, rather there is an element of "being in the right place at the right time."  Thus, striving to be in supportive environments is important.  Radtke also remarks that young students who identify with feminism in today's university context impress her.   She believes that identifying as a feminist today is in and of itself a political act that is useful. 


Idealistically, Radtke envisions the future of a feminist psychology as a major theoretical shift in psychology as a whole.  She desires a moving away from measuring variables and adopting critical, alternative approaches to understand psychological phenomena.  Her current research has made this shift.   For instance, she has been involved in a prairie-based tri-provincial, interdisciplinary project on issues related to motherhood that establishes meaningful partnerships with community organizations.


by Jenna MacKay (2010)

To cite this article, see Credits

Selected Works:


Radtke, H. L. (2008). Review of women's health in Canada: Critical perspectives on theory and policy. Journal of Health Psychology, 13(6), 841-842.


Quinn, J. E. A., & Radtke, H. L. (2006). Dilemmatic negotiations: The (un)tenability of feminist identity. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30(2), 187-198.


Hatfield, J., Radtke, H. L., Jansz, J, Morawski, J., & Lubek, I. (2003). Gender, culture and colonization. In N. Stephenson, H. L. Radtke, R. J. Jorna, & H. Stam (Eds.), Theoretical psychology: Critical contributions (pp. 317-376). Concord, ON: Captus University Publications.


Radtke, H. L., Hunter, M., & Stam, H. (2000). In memoriam as in life: Gender and psychology in the obituaries of eminent psychologists. Journal of Canadian Psychology, 41(4), 213-229.

Photo Gallery:


Interview with H. Lorraine Radtke: Feminist Identity

Interview conducted on June 19, 2007 by Alexandra Rutherford in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Interview with H. Lorraine Radtke: Discourse Analysis

Interview conducted on June 19, 2007 by Alexandra Rutherford in Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Interview with H. Lorraine Radtke: Intimate Partner Violence Research

Interview conducted on June 19, 2007 by Alexandra Rutherford in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.