In Memoriam: Paula Joan Caplaan, 1947-2021

Paula Joan Caplaan, a psychologist and prominent feminist scholar who taught at Harvard University and the University of Toronto, died on July 21 in Rockville, Maryland. She was 74 years old and suffered from cancer.

A native of Springfield, Missouri, Dr. Caplaan held a bachelor’s degree from Radcliffe College of Harvard University and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in psychology from Duke University.

Dr. Caplaan was the author 12 books including They Say You’re Crazy: How the World’s Most Powerful Psychiatrists Decide Who’s Normal (Perseus Books, 1995). This book challenged the conventional wisdom of the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of “normal.” She also wrote books that won her acclaim from feminists including The Myth of Women’s Masochism (Dutton, 1985) and Don’t Blame Mother: Mending the Mother-Daughter Relationship (HarperCollins, 1989). Her last book – When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home: How All of Us Can Help Veterans (MIT Press, 2011) – discussed how practitioners and the public could help soldiers who suffered from PTSD.

During her academic career, Dr. Caplaan was a full professor of applied psychology and head of the Centre for Women’s Studies in Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and a lecturer in women’s studies and an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. At Harvard University she lectured in the psychology department and the Program on Women, Gender, and Sexuality and was a fellow in the Women and Public Policy Program a the Kennedy School of Government and a research associate at the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research.


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