Paula Caplan, 74, Died; Feminist Psychologist Assumed Her Profession


The couple divorced in 1978. A previous marriage also ended in divorce. Dr. Caplan’s son Jeremy survives along with his daughter; brother Bruce; and five grandchildren.

After moving to Canada, Dr. Caplan worked as a psychologist at the Toronto Family Court for three years. Among her first efforts was a study of assertiveness between girls and boys, following the work of the leading German-American psychologist. Erik EriksonHe concluded that boys are naturally more assertive than girls.

Dr. Caplan showed otherwise. By focusing on very young children during the study and reducing the presence of adults in the room, she showed that it was sexist socialization, not biology, that made girls act less assertively than boys.

Caplan was a professor at the University of Toronto from 1979 to 1995 and chair of the Center for the Study of Women in Education from 1985 to 1987. He later attended the American University, University of Rhode Island, Brown University and finally Harvard, where he led the Voice of Diversity Project. Hutchins Center for African and African-American Studies.

Dr. Caplan’s work went beyond academic psychology. An actor since high school, he has had small roles in TV shows and commercials, some of which only had to do with his intellectual pursuits.

He wrote plays and directed documentary films including:Isaac Pope: The Spirit of an American Century(2019), about a black man During World War II, he served in the Army under his father’s command at the Battle of the Bulge.

The movie was a piece about his most recent interest, veterans, and particularly those thought to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a diagnosis he largely dismissed. He said there is nothing pathological in having a strong, even debilitating, reaction to the horrors of war, and our desire to medicalize these responses has made it possible for non-veterans to ignore how terrible war can be.

Leaving this job to psychotherapists may be dangerous not only for the soldiers but also for us as a nation.” Wrote In The Washington Post in 2004. “By helping to hide the consequences of war, it makes it easier for us to go back to war the next time.”


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