Karen Horney was an M.D. who became one of the earliest practitioners of psychoanalysis in Berlin. She immigrated to the U.S. in 1932 and joined the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. In 1942, she made a dramatic walkout from the Institute, followed by many of its members, in protest of its rigid Freudian theory of female development.
Karen Horney published numerous books, and one of the most famous was The Neurotic Personality of Our TIme (1937). Her books developed a significant lay following, but until the late1980's, her work was largely ignored or denigrated by her peers. Posthumously, she began getting the recognition from psychologists which, in her lifetime, was withheld or given wrongly to others. She is now regarded as having been a pioneer in social psychology and female psychological development.
This biography (see it on Amazon) is an ambitious work of history, setting the stage for each new development in Karen's life with great care. It mercilessly exposes the in-fighting which has haunted Freudian psychoanalysis from its professional beginnings in the 1920's, and it attempts to understand a woman whose life was quite daring in comparison with the norms of her day. Can you imagine, for example, what it was like to be one of the first women to become a
medical doctor, let alone a psychologist, as well as something of a
pioneer in, say, owning property or publishing books?
I would have had the author try a little less to get inside her subject's head, but the story is so exhaustively researched and documented that I was willing to put up with that. I liked that the author did not try to soften the sharp edges of the personality of Karen Horney, who apparently was difficult in some ways as well as brilliant. And as with all cases of misogyny, the question always arises of how much criticism from others was deserved, vs. how much was a result of professional jealousy intensified and amplified by disrespect of females in professional settings. These agonizing questions of balance are still highly relevant to women today.
---- FOOTNOTE: I wrote the above review in 1988 for WoNet News, an
internet newsgroup, and I'm republishing it here, with a few edits.