Georgia Babladelis. Printed with permission from California State University East Bay
In September, 1976, the inaugural issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly (PWQ) was published. It was edited by Georgia Babladelis. In her first editorial, she outlined several goals for the new journal. Foremost among them was “to ask hard questions about established facts and to explore new questions and find new facts” (Babladelis, 1976, p. 4). Thirty-four years later, the hard questions continue to be asked in the pages of PWQ and feminist researchers continue to generate new facts to add to a large and established body of scholarship. As PWQ's first editor, Georgia Babladelis broke traditions, and she built a lasting foundation for feminist scholarship. With her passing, at the age of 78, she leaves us with a profound legacy and a responsibility to continue to challenge entrenched beliefs and generate new knowledge.
Georgia Babladelis, a proud first-generation Greek American, was born on January 30, 1931, in Manistique, Michigan. She attended the University of Michigan and received her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1953. She then moved west, where she completed her master's degree at the University of California, Berkeley in 1957. She earned her doctorate in psychology at the University of Colorado, where she investigated the effects of verbal conditioning and personality on self-descriptive statements. She subsequently published her dissertation results in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology (Babladelis, 1961). Babladelis moved back to California upon graduation, taking a position at the Guidance Clinic of the Alameda County Probation Department in Oakland, California. In 1966 she was hired as one of the first psychology professors at California State College, Hayward (now California State University, East Bay) and was on faculty there for the rest of her career.
In the mid 1970s, after the establishment of Division 35: Psychology of Women in 1973, the arduous work of creating a journal for the Division began. As Helen Astin, the second president of the Division and Babladelis's “Greek compatriot,” has recalled (personal communication, October 7, 2009):
My fondest memories of Georgia have been about our visits to various publishers, proposing the idea of the journal. Sage publications, one of the first publishers we visited, announced to us that such a journal, while interesting and perhaps important, would not have much of a future life. What a poor prediction on their part. But because of Georgia with her usual positive spirit, energy, and optimism, we persisted and our journal became a very successful reality.
As the first editor of this innovative, but evidently risky, new journal, Babladelis was also committed to inclusiveness, even if it meant breaking with some traditions. Michele Wittig has remarked, when she later pointed out to Babladelis how inexperienced she had been when invited to be one of the two original associate editors, “She [Babladelis] said that she knew that I was very inexperienced but that she thought it was important for the new journal to break some traditions and this was one tradition worth breaking” (personal communication, October 17, 2009). Ravenna Helson, one of Babladelis' colleagues and neighbors in Berkeley, has noted of her personal qualities, “I think Georgia was one of those people who much enriches a group without much talking and self-assertion, through the steadiness of her values and her interesting individuality” (personal communication, October 16, 2009).
In addition to editing PWQ, Babladelis created the first Psychology of Women course at her university, and she helped launch the Women's Studies and nursing programs. As was not uncommon, she faced significant opposition in these endeavors. In 1967, she co-edited a psychology of personality textbook, The Shaping of Personality, which foreshadowed a social learning perspective (Babladelis & Adams, 1967). She taught courses and conducted research on personality development, psychotherapy, gender stereotyping, gender roles, and attitudes towards aging (e.g., Babladelis, 1972, 1973, 1978, 1987; Babladelis, Deaux, Helmreich, & Spence, 1983). She was also a strong supporter of (predominantly female) students who returned to school to earn their college degrees, establishing the Georgia Babladelis Scholarship for students who faced the challenge of holding full-time jobs and raising families while pursuing their studies.
In the early 1980s, Babladelis was appointed to serve as the U.S. director of research for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. In this capacity, she traveled internationally to further the cause of feminism and women's rights.
In her retirement, Babladelis was an active board member and supporter of the Berkeley League of Women Voters. She was a fellow of the Western Psychological Association and the American Psychological Association, and a charter member and fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. Babladelis was also an animal lover and donated generously to the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, establishing the Lancelot Endowment for Feline Welfare and Health (named after one of her beloved cats) and a charitable trust, the Dr. Georgia Babladelis Shelter Medicine Program Endowed Fund.
Georgia Babladelis died on May 28, 2009, of complications following a thoracic aneurysm dissection. She is remembered for her commitment to supporting women, locally, nationally, and internationally, and for her generosity, positive spirit, good will, laughter, and mentorship. Martha Mednick, the fourth president of Division 35, summed up her contribution to the psychology of women and to PWQ: “The foundation she created ensured that Division 35 continues to have a journal of which we can be proud” (personal communication, October 16, 2009).