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A Woman Ahead of Her Time

Milicent Washburn Shinn was born on April 15, 1858 in Niles, California. She completed an A.B. degree at the University of California. It took her six years because she periodically needed to take tome off to earn enough money to complete her degree.

In 1880 Milicent began to contribute prose and poetry to The Californian. In 1883 she acquired the periodical and changed it’s name to The Overland Monthly and was it’s editor for the next eleven years. In 1894 she sold the successful paper and gave up her editorship but continued to submit her essays and poems for publication.

When her niece was born in 1890 she became very interested in child development. She kept precise records of the baby’s mental and physical progress which she published as Notes on the Development of a Child. It gained the attention of experts in the field and as a result she was invited to speak at the world’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. She was actually quite surprised at the attention her work had received. She did the research for her own edification and enjoyment, not with any scientific aspirations. She was astonished to learn that such records were not common. Following her presentation Shinn received several invitations for graduate study prestigious institutions such as Stanford, John Hopkins and Clark University. Milicent chose to return to her alma mater, the University of California to earn her Ph.D. She was the first woman and only the eleventy person to receive a Ph.D. from this school.

Her work in psychology was very well received and brought her attention in both the United States and abroad. Her second book, The Biography of a Baby, was published in 1900. Shortly after this she retired to the family ranch in Niles, CA, where she lived quietly doing charity and church work. She was also very active in her college alumnae association.

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