We look at women leaders in the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) as a case study to explore the roots of second wave feminist leadership in psychology and its impact on the acceptance of gender as an important part of the field. Although all psychological organizations excluded many women from leadership until the latter part of the 20th century, the SPSSI, despite the contradiction between its socially activist agenda and exclusionary practices, was unusual because its ideals attracted many accomplished women to become members. In order to provide a richer view of women's professional leadership and its consequences, we conducted a cohort analysis of the personal and professional circumstances of those women elected to office in the SPSSI over the past 70 years. We examine the complex interaction between the internalization of sexist norms, the use of formal and informal social structures (especially those involving collegial networking), political ideology, and social change. Based on our analysis, we suggest that the achievements of individual women appear to be less influential than the development of a critical mass of women leaders with a politically activist agenda and commitment to a social constructionist theoretical frame.