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Maureen McHugh


Training Location(s):

PhD, University of Pittsburgh, (1983)

MS, University of Pittsburgh, (1979)

BA, Chatham College, (1974)

Primary Affiliation(s):

Indiana University of Pennsylvania, (1986-present)

Duquesne University, (1985-1986)

Community College of Allegheny County, (1984-1985)

West Virginia University, (1984)

Marquette University, (1983-1984)

Media Links:
Professional Website

Maureen McHugh at Indiana University of Pennsylvania


Psychology's Feminist Voices Oral History Transcript


Oral History Excerpt on YouTube: Where Feminism is Lacking 

Oral History Excerpt on YouTube: On Size-ism and Size Acceptance

Oral History Excerpt on YouTube: Violence Against Women Research 


Women, Psychology and the Women’s Liberation Movement: Transforming Psychology

[panel presented as part of "A Revolutionary Moment" at Boston University (March,2014)]



Career Focus: Gender issues; sexism; fat acceptance; intimate partner violence; feminist research methods; leadership.


Growing up, McHugh was described by her father as “strong willed.” She was the middle child and one of five siblings who grew up in a working class home. McHugh notes that her Catholic upbringing instilled a strong work ethic. Although she is not a practicing Catholic today, she recalls that “Catholicism taught me that if you’re given a gift you have a responsibility to use it.” She describes her parents as intelligent and strong but unable to pursue higher education. Her father was enlisted in the war and also had to take care of his elderly mother. McHugh’s intellectual abilities were rewarded by her parents when she was younger and they supported her decision to go to university.


McHugh attended Chatham College for her undergraduate degree in psychology. While at Chatham, McHugh became involved in the women’s movement and anti-war activities. During her studies, she found she really enjoyed psychology and decided to pursue it. She wrote an undergraduate thesis on women’s problem solving. The strength of McHugh’s undergraduate thesis facilitated her graduate school applications. She was recruited by feminist social psychologist Irene Frieze during the senior year of her undergraduate degree to come to the graduate program at the University of Pittsburgh and to help teach a Psychology of Women course. When Frieze contacted McHugh to ask her if she would help co-teach Psychology of Women, McHugh realized that “Wow that’s what I want to do and that’s what I’ve done from that day on, that’s really my main...that’s how I identify myself - as someone who teaches Psychology of Women.” McHugh entered graduate school with aspirations to complete a Ph.D.


McHugh recalls an early interest in psychology from literature she read about women who were labeled as “crazy.” Her interest was piqued in ninth grade when she wrote an essay review of five novels including the book “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” a fictionalized semi-autobiographical account of the female author’s treatment for schizophrenia with acclaimed psychiatrist Frieda Fromm-Reichmann. McHugh’s foray into feminism accelerated after she read “Old Man and the Sea” and found that she detested its androcentrism. Her dislike of the novel was a private experience and she felt she was unable to express her views with others. While attending a women’s studies lecture however, the novel was critiqued from a feminist standpoint. This lecture made McHugh feel like a curtain had been opened to reveal other women who had similar experiences and feelings toward the novel. She recalls this moment being “sort of like this private discontent and then you adjust the lens a little and all of a sudden you can see so clearly.” McHugh describes feminism as changing her perspective on the world. .


McHugh was introduced by her mentor Irene Frieze to feminist organizations such as Division 35, the Society for the Psychology of Women, and the Association for Women in Psychology (AWP). She became heavily involved in both associations. In 1978, McHugh and her colleagues organized the AWP conference in Pittsburgh with keynote speaker Sandra Bem. It was one of the largest attendances in AWP history. She also served on the executive board of Division 35 as a graduate student member under Carolyn Sherif who was president in 1979-80. While on the executive, McHugh worked on a task force to make recommendations for conducting non-sexist research in psychology.


More recently, McHugh has studied discrimination against fat individuals and fat acceptance and has run workshops on this topic at AWP.  She has examined the structural barriers fat individuals face, and the link between body size and class. McHugh has made research contributions to many areas. She has also examined violence against women, including the topics of victim blame and rape. She became involved in this area out of a sense of the lack of progress made over the past twenty-five years on issues surrounding women and rape.


McHugh taught at Marquette University, West Virginia University, Community College of Allegheny County, and Duquesne University before coming to Indiana University of Pennsylvania where she is now Professor of Psychology. Her courses include Psychology of Women, Women of the Future, and Gender & Violence, among others. McHugh is committed to  changing her students’ perspectives and impacting their lives by giving them a feminist lens through which to view the world.  


by Amanda Jenkins (2013)
To cite this article, see Credits


Selected Works:

Eagly, A. H., Eaton, A., Rose, S. M., Riger, S., & McHugh, M. C. (2012). Feminism and psychology: Analysis of a half-century of research on women and gender. American Psychologist, 67(3), 211-230.


McHugh, M.C. & Kasardo, A. (2012). Anti-fat prejudice: The role of psychology in explication, education and eradication. Sex Roles. 66, 617-627.


McHugh, M. C. (2006) What women want: Challenging the medicalization of women’s sexual problems. Sex Roles, 54(5-6), 361-369.


McHugh, M. C. & Frieze, I. H. (2005). Understanding gender and intimate partner abuse: Theoretical and empirical approaches. Special Issue of Sex Roles, 52, 717-724.


McHugh, M.C.(2005) Understanding gender and intimate partner abuse. Sex Roles, 52, 717-724.


Frieze, I. H. & McHugh, M. C. (2005). Female violence against intimate partners. Special Issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly. 29(3), 229-237.


McHugh, M. C., Livingston, N. A. & Ford, A. (2005) A postmodern approach to women’s use ofviolence: Developing multiple and complex conceptualizations. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29(3), 323-336.


McHugh, M. C. & Frieze, I. H. (1997). The measurement of gender role attitudes: A review and commentary. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 1-16.


McHugh, M. C., Koeski, R. D., & Frieze, I. H. (1986). Issues to consider in conducting non-sexist psychology: A guide for researchers. American Psychologist, 41(8), 879-890.


McHugh, M.C. & Cosgrove, L. (2004). Feminist research methods: Studying women and gender. In M. Paludi (Ed.), The Praeger guide to the psychology of gender (pp.155-182). NY: Praeger.


McHugh, M. C., Fisher, J. E., & Frieze, I. H. (1982). Effects of situational factors on the self-attributions of females and males. Sex Roles, 8(4), 389-397.


McHugh, M. C., Scairrillo, S., & Watson, B. (in press). Constructing women as sexy: Implications for coercive sexuality and rape. In D. Casteneda & M. Paludi (Eds),  An essential handbook of women's sexuality, Westport, CT: Praeger.


McHugh, M. C. & Skiderski, C. (2010). From battered women to intimate partner violence: (Re) Conceptualizing relationship violence. In M. Paludi and F. Denmark (Eds.), Victims of sexual assault and abuse: Resources and responses for individuals and families (pp.241-279). Westport, CT: Praeger.

Photo Gallery:


Interview with Maureen McHugh: Where Feminism is Lacking

Interview conducted on March 3, 2012 by Alexandra Rutherford, Pelin Gul, Florence Truong, & Isuri Weerakkod in Pittsburgh, PA, U.S.A.


Interview with Maureen McHugh: On Size-ism and Size Acceptance

Interview conducted on March 3, 2012 by Alexandra Rutherford, Pelin Gul, Florence Truong, & Isuri Weerakkod in Pittsburgh, PA, U.S.A.


Interview with Maureen McHugh: Violence Against Women Research

Interview conducted on March 3, 2012 by Alexandra Rutherford, Pelin Gul, Florence Truong, & Isuri Weerakkod in Pittsburgh, PA, U.S.A.