On This Day … 04 December

People (Births)

  • 1882 – Constance Davey, Australian psychologist (d. 1963).

People (Deaths)

  • 1963 – Constance Davey, Australian psychologist (b. 1882).
  • 1981 – Jeanne Block, American psychologist (b. 1923).

Constance Davey

Constance Muriel Davey OBE (04 December 1882 to 04 December 1963) was an Australian psychologist who worked in the South Australian Department of Education, where she introduced the state’s first special education classes.

Davey was born in 1882 in Nuriootpa, South Australia, to Emily Mary (née Roberts) and Stephen Henry Davey. She began teaching at a Port Adelaide private school in 1908 and at St Peter’s Collegiate Girls’ School in 1909. She attended the University of Adelaide as a part-time student, completing a B.A. in philosophy in 1915 and an M.A. in 1918. In 1921 she won a Catherine Helen Spence Memorial Scholarship which allowed her to undertake a doctorate at the University of London; her main area of research was “mental efficiency and deficiency” in children. She received her doctorate in 1924 and visited the United States and Canada to observe the teaching of intellectually disabled and delinquent children before returning to Australia.

In November 1924 Davey was hired as the first psychologist in the South Australian Department of Education, where she was tasked with examining and organising classes for “backward, retarded and problem” school students. She examined and performed intelligence tests on all educationally delayed children, and established South Australia’s first “opportunity class” for these children in 1925. She set up a course which educated teachers on working with intellectually disabled children in 1931. She began lecturing in psychology at the University of Adelaide in 1927, continuing until 1950, and in 1938 she helped to set up a new university course for training social workers. She resigned from the Department of Education in 1942, by which point there were 700 children in the opportunity classes she had introduced.

Davey was a member of the Women’s Non-Party Political Association for 30 years and served as the organisation’s president from 1943 to 1947. She became a fellow of the British Psychological Society in 1950 and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1955. In 1956 she published Children and Their Law-makers, a historical study of South Australian law as it pertained to children, which she had begun in 1945 as a senior research fellow at the University of Adelaide. Davey died of thyroid cancer on her 81st birthday in 1963.

Jeanne Block

Jeanne Lavonne Humphrey Block (17 July 1923 to 04 December 1981) was an American psychologist and expert on child development. She conducted research into sex-role socialisation and, with her husband Jack Block, created a person-centred personality framework. Block was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and conducted her research with the National Institute of Mental Health and the University of California, Berkeley. She was an active researcher when she was diagnosed with cancer in 1981.

Early Life and Education

Block was born in 1923 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was raised in a small town in Oregon. After graduating from high school, she entered Oregon State University as a home economics major, but she was dissatisfied with her education. She joined SPARS, the women’s branch of the United States Coast Guard, in 1944. While serving in World War II, Block was badly burned and nearly died. She was treated with skin grafts, and she was able to return to military service until 1946.

In 1947, after completing a psychology degree at Reed College, she attended graduate school at Stanford University. At Stanford, Block met two mentors, Ernest Hilgard and Maud Merrill James. Hilgard wrote a popular general psychology textbook and co-wrote a textbook on learning theories, and he became president of the American Psychological Association. James had been an associate of intelligence researcher Lewis Terman. Block also met her future husband and research collaborator, Jack Block, during her time at Stanford.


Pregnant at the time she finished her Ph.D. at Stanford in 1951, Block worked mostly part-time in the 1950s while she raised four children. Block and her husband created a person-centred personality theory that became popular among personality researchers. The theory examined personality in terms of two variables, ego-resiliency (the ability to respond flexibly to changing situations) and ego-control (the ability to suppress impulses). In 1963, she was awarded a National Institute of Mental Health fellowship and she moved with her family to Norway for a year. She joined the faculty as a research psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Human Development in 1965. She became a professor-in-residence in the department of psychology in 1979.

In the 1970s, Block published an analysis the sex-role socialization occurring in several groups of children in the United States and Northern Europe. Even across countries, boys were typically raised to be independent, high-achieving and unemotional, and girls were generally encouraged to express feelings, to foster close relationships and to pursue typical feminine ideals.

Block was made a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1980 and received the Lester N. Hofheimer Prize for outstanding psychiatric research from the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1979. She was elected president of the APA Division of Developmental Psychology.

In 1984 her book, Sex Role Identity and Ego Development was published posthumously.[4]


Block died at the Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley on 04 December 1981. She had been diagnosed with cancer earlier that year. She was survived by her husband, Jack, who died in 2010, four children, her brother and mother.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.