Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Diana Moyer

Committee Members

Robert Kronick, Trena Paulus, Susan Speraw


This study investigated the life history and influences of Beatrice A. Wright on rehabilitation psychology. The research had four purposes: (1) to record and transcribe recollections of Beatrice A. Wright, the person known as a Founder/Mother of Rehabilitation Psychology, about her life and her work; (2) to trace the development of her major conceptual notions; (3) to explore the interplay between her life and her times; and, (4) to assess the merits of her contributions to the fields of psychology and rehabilitation counseling, as well as to disability rights.

The data gathered for this life history included audio recordings of in-depth interviews with Dr. Wright and Louise Barker; a telephone interview with Dr. Miriam Lewin; field notes from non-recordable time spent with Dr. Wright; and her presentations in Knoxville, Tennessee in September 2005. E-mail communication also was used to collect and verify information, and primary and secondary sources were reviewed. Dr. Wright’s own words liberally were used in the body of the document, in order to preserve her personality and views. Data other than that comprising the introduction and conclusion were organized into major chronological segments of her life, which she identifies by major events or her geographical location at the time: the early years, war and transition, Kansas, and Wisconsin.

Contextual influences of Dr. Wright’s life provide backdrops against which her actions were analyzed, especially the intellectual tenor of groups associated with Kurt Lewin during the 1930s and 1940s and the status of female psychologists from the 1930s through the 1960s. While Dr. Wright’s life has formed her ideas, the data reveal that her ideas have shaped her life.

Dr. Wright has dedicated her professional life to the psychosocial aspects of rehabilitation psychology and their application to real life and has contributed so richly to these areas that recent research confirms her as the most-cited person in the world on those topics. At the same time, she has dedicated her personal life to her family and, still independent at ninety years of age, she continues to enjoy loving interactions with all four generations.

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