April 13th, 1931- September 28th, 2001
Martha Bernal was born in San Antonio, Texas on April 13th, 1931, but spent most of her childhood and adolescence living with her family in El Paso, Texas. Her parents were Alicia and Enrique de Bernal, they immigrated to America when they were young adults. Throughout her life she was a victim to a lot of discrimination which inspired the many actions and accomplishments she made throughout her career and adulthood. When she was very young she was not allowed to speak spanish at school although she had many spanish peers and this shamed them about their heritage. She wasn’t encouraged to embrace who she was or where she came from and these feelings of being outcasted resignated with Bernal all through her life. She had one sister and both her mother and her sister were very supportive and encouraging of Bernal’s life choices to persue an education and become a working woman; however, her father did not share these feelings. He felt that as a woman she should find a husband and start a family. Regardless of his dissatisfaction with the idea she received a BA from the University of Texas in 1952. She continued her education at the graduate program at Syracuse University and was the first latina to recieve a Ph. D. in psychology. She earned this Ph. D. from Indiana University, Bloomington. Her achievements throughout her education and her career were huge, not only to the field of psychology, but also relating to women’s and minorities rights. She spent a large part of her career focusing her attention on these topics and made a lot of progress in improving the lives of people within each of these communities. Unfortunately, She suffered from three different bouts of cancer always returning to her work when she recovered. The third time Bernal was was diagnosed with lung cancer, ultimately killing her on September 28th, 2001.
Career and Achievements
Marth Bernal began her career in Clinical psychology and focused a lot of her early career on learning theories and empiricism. She used these techniques to work with children who were suffering from conduct disorder. She spent many years working with these children and focusing her attention to helping them, but she always had her heart set on focusing her research toward helping minorities and looking into multicultural psychology. Like many other fields in the U.S., a lot of psychological studies and theories revolved around white, typically middle or upper class people. Bernal felt that more attention needed to be paid to people that didn’t fit into these molds and that the field of psychology should be adapted to multicultural issues which may exist. Most of her later life was dedicated to this research and she made many achievements to helping this cause. She encouraged other Hispanics to become psychologists and tried to seek their help in her own studies. She worked to provide more educational and awareness opportunities for minorities, so they could have equal opportunities and encouragement to receive an education and delve into fields such as psychology. Some associations she began are the Board of Ethnic Minority Affairs of the American Psychological Association and the National Hispanic Psychology Association. She also volunteered her time and was a part of several organizations such as: the National Latino/a psychological association, APA’s Commission on Ethnic Minority, Recruitment, Retention and Training. In addition to this work she also focused her attention into other causes and was a part of the Committee on Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Affairs. Due to her hard work and amazing accomplishments she received many different awards and different honors. Some include, the Distinguished Life Achievement Award from APA’s Division 45, the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority issues. She sadly passed away before she had the ability to accept this award, but she was also awarded APA’s Distinguished Contribution to Psychology in the Public Interest Award in 2001. Throughout her career she wrote 60 journal articles and book chapters. She also spent some time as a professor at a few different universities in the US. Her work was not only helpful and progressive, but inspiring to many who followed in her footsteps. She opened many doors to minorities and women in psychology and has inspired many others to become involved in her work and continue her legacy.
How Martha Bernal Relates To Our Class Materials
A lot of Martha Bernal’s research and her own life history relates to the ideas of childhood development that we looked at in class. Bernal focused a large part of her research to childhood development, focusing mainly on conduct disorder. This disorder has a direct relation to the upbringing and development of children that we looked at during week 6 of our class. The article “Gendered Identities” discusses various development theories in children; one being social learning theory which was a main focus of some of Bernal’s research. In addition to this she was a very successful woman in the field of psychology and did a lot of work that benefited minorities and mainly women of color.