Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hedda Bolgar

The Awesome Woman for Wednesday, October 5, 2011 is Hedda Bolgar, born August 19, 1909 and still working today, at age 102, as a psychotherapist. The fact that she's still working would be awesome enough to qualify her for Awesome Woman status (IMO, anyway), but there's so much more to her than that.

Her mother was the first female journalist in Switzerland and served as a war correspondent in Budapest during WWI. Her father helped start the Russian revolution. Hedda finished her doctoral work in 1934, taking courses from the group of psychoanalysts surrounding Sigmund Freud. She worked with her co-clinician and good friend Lisolette Fischer to develop the Bolgar-Fischer World Test, a tool for studying the creative thought processes of children that built on the World Technique (sandbox play) developed by Margaret Lowenfeld. The test consists of subjects using small figurines (houses, cars, animals, trees, etc.) to build a "world" that reveals their attitudes and orientations.

During the build up to WWII, Bolgar was very active in anti-Nazi politics. As such, by 1938, Austria was no longer safe for her, and she fled to the United States, where she began post-doctoral studies at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. She was the only woman in the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago.

Bolgar left Chicago for New York and was able to bring her parents and her fiancé to the United States, but her future husband's parents died at Auschwitz. She soon moved to Los Angeles, where she co-founded a school for psychoanalysts. She also founded a training center and clinic that treats patients who can't afford to get psychiatric help elsewhere. Id.

Bolger says "What I grew up with was, if there's an unmet need in the world, you try to meet it, and if there's a problem, you try to solve it." Today, at 102, she still works four days a week and teaches one day a week. "I'm too busy to die."

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