Questioning an Icon: Edith Buxbaum and the Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute, 1947-1982
Esther Altshul Helfgott, Ph.D.
This paper (American Psychoanalytic Association, 1994) represents my thinking as I begin research for a biography of Edith Buxbaum, the child psychoanalyst and author of Your Child Makes Sense (1949) and Troubled Children in a Troubled World (1970). The paper consists of a series of questions about Buxbaum's place in the history of psychoanalysis and in the development of psychoanalysis in Seattle, Washington. Two basic assumptions inform my questions.
One, psychoanalysis is class-based. It is inaccessible as a treatment tool to members of society whose household incomes cannot support psychoanalytic fees. Psychoanalysis acts microcosmically, re-enforcing class-driven norms that maximize financial and educational gain for some while inhibiting access to basic comforts for others.
Second, the power differential between analyst and analysand establishes an unequal partnership, one that reflects hierarchical relationships beyond the therapy room. The notion of analytic neutrality, alongside the analyst's presumption of the analysand's perception of what is occurring in the room, contributes to the analyst's authoritarian voice and to his or her influence over the analysand's re-evolving self-definition and views.
These assumptions inform my interpretation of Edith Buxbaum's relationship to psychoanalysis. They also contribute to my impression of psychoanalytic institutes as wells of resistance to social change, even though individual psychoanalysts - depending upon the socio-political climates they find themselves in, or, choose to be in - may be politically active themselves.
I came to write about Edith Buxbaum because she was a founder, in 1947, of psychoanalysis in Seattle. During the time leading up to the conception of this project in 1991, I was completing the second year of a five-day-a-week four and a half year analysis. I was enrolled in a year-long course in psychoanalytic theory, called The First Intensive Year, with the Northwest Alliance for Psychoanalytic Theory. I thought that one day I might want to become a lay analyst so I could work with low-income people.
I was falling in love with the psychoanalytic process (in spite of the discomfort in knowing that psychoanalysis would not have been available to me if not for my husband's salary). At the same time, I was experiencing my classes in psychoanalytic theory as utterly boring and uncreative, even dishonest. This last, because presenting analysts did not address their counter-transferences in relation to their interpretations of their clients' lives. I did not believe, nor do I now, that "falling in love" during treatment occurs without the analyst's collusion.
Further, presenters neglected to distinguish between four and five-day-a-week analyses. They did not distinguish between what constitutes therapy and what constitutes an analysis, as if number of meeting times has no interpretive value. In addition, there was a knowledge hierarchy in the room -- with the assumption that analysts (under ten in number) knew more than other therapists (social workers, for instance, most of whom were women and comprised 90% of the class) about all subjects dealing with therapy.
What I was experiencing in my analysis at the time, and up to the period of termination two and a half years later, was something I had been describing as magic. So when I entered the psychoanalytic learning environment, I was sorely disappointed: I expected it to reflect the creativity of the analytic setting as I knew it. What I found, instead, was a community whose social controls silenced its members, whose concept of interdisciplinary meant object relations versus relational versus interpersonal versus classical, not psychoanalysis intertwined with poetry, say, or history and film.
The voices I heard were homogeneous, housed in bodies positioned behind the same couch or in the same chair. What I experienced in the analytic classroom, in the seminars and lectures had no resemblance to the artistic process that I knew to be psychoanalysis. I wanted to know why.
I also wanted to know why there were so few women analysts in Seattle, a half dozen out of forty-four and why no program of mentorship existed for potential women analysts. Then I learned of Edith Buxbaum. I learned that she was a founder, with Dr. Douglass Orr, of the Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute, that she developed child psychoanalysis there, that she had been a member of Anna Freud's child analysis seminar in Vienna from 1927 until 1937 when she was forced to flee Europe. I learned that she had practiced analysis in New York for ten years after fleeing the Nazis and that she had been Seattle's only female training analyst.
The last point was especially salient. Buxbaum died in 1982. This was the early nineties, and not one other woman had risen to the position of training analyst. Why? Was Buxbaum one of the boys? Was she accepted into a predominantly male domain because of her Vienna connection? Was she accepted? Why did she not bring other women analysts into Seattle's psychoanalytic establishment? How did the absence of all but one woman in decision-making roles impact Seattle's psychoanalytic landscape, including its training grounds?
My interest in local psychoanalytic history and its relationship to the history of psychoanalysis was growing; yet, I was still primarily concerned with the psychoanalytic relationship and the process that meant so much to me. But if the process (as art) did not reflect the training (which Presenters seemed bent upon molding into a science), how good could the process really be? Moreover, how could psychoanalysis be a science when counter-transferences skewed evidence, as did the absence of analysands' testimonies?
Perhaps I did not love psychoanalysis as much as I thought I did. Perhaps I loved the relationship with my analyst, not psychoanalysis. Yet, I knew psychoanalysis was synonymous with relationship; at least, I thought it was. The problem must be in the training and access to the training, and how was this connected with Edith Buxbaum? Directly, it seemed.
Since she was a training analyst early on, most of the analysts practicing in Seattle must have been her analysands, colleagues and students; a fair number were probably friends. What were Buxbaum's methodologies and teachings? How did they impact what occurred in the analytic setting, past and present? I soon learned that my own analyst had been in, at least, one of her classes. I knew that as soon as I finished my analysis and the doctorate I was simultaneously working on, I would write Buxbaum's story, with emphasis on her relationship to psychoanalytic education, psychoanalytic-institute building and women. The historian, Nathan Hale, has pointed out, that in a 1955 paper the psychoanalyst, Edward Glover, observed that "...analysts tended to ape the techniques of their trainers, sometimes too slavishly."²
Was this slavishness manifested in Seattle? How was Buxbaum influenced by her analyses with Hermann Nunberg in the 1920s and later, in 1935, with Salome Guttman Isokower - and by her teachers, including August Aichorn, Helene Deutsch and Siegfried Bernfeld?³
What impact did the members of Anna Freud's circle have on Buxbaum? What was her relationship with the women analysts connected with that group, including Marianne Kris, Annie Reich, Editha Sterba, Berta Bornstein and Jenny Waelder-Hall? With the men?
What was her relationship with her mother? With her father? She had no siblings, but she grew up with, and maintained a life-long relationship (however conflicted) with, her maternal first cousin, Bruno Bettelheim.
What was Buxbaum's childhood like? How did her personal life,the choices she made, her self-concept,including her views on family-life and choice of not raising children of her own, impact her experience as a writer, as a teacher, as one who analyzed and learned? And why, after having settled in New York and married at the age of forty-two for the first time), having spent the war years developing a practice and helping Jews escape Europe, did she go to Seattle in the first place?´
What was her connection to Jewish life and culture? While Jewish tradition encourages Jewish women to bear children, Buxbaum, like many women analysts, remained childless. Her Seattle friend, pediatrician Heidi Kirschner, said Buxbaum was biologically capable of having children. Did she ever have an abortion? What was her relationship to Judaism, to her sense of Jewish culture and identity? She told Schwartz that she and her husband, Fritz Schmidl, moved to Seattle because Schmidl wanted to leave New York. He was a social worker, and Buxbaum said:
... he felt that, as a man ..., he didn't have a chance to get ahead in social work, because it was dominated by the ladies. I think that was true. So he wanted to get out of new York. He also wanted to get out because he didn't like living there. So he might have considered the suburbs - such as Connecticut, etc. But I just couldn't see commuting to New York.
Buxbaum said that professionally, she had been well-established in New York. "We made a lot of money there. A lot of money. It's a funny thing to say because you used every cent you made."
Actually, Buxbaum wanted to move to Missoula, Montana; but she said the situation was hopeless there, so they came to Seattle: "I knew that Dr. Orr was here, though I hadn't met him before, and I thought, `Well, he is kind of lonely here; he is the only analyst, and he might like to talk to somebody.' So we just visited, and that's when Orr said, `We need a training analyst.'"
Edward Kaplan, a social worker at the Ryther Child Treatment Center in Seattle who worked with Buxbaum throughout the 1970s, said he suspected that Buxbaum moved to Seattle because she could develop her own sphere of influence there. The mountains and outdoors may have reminded her of Vienna, but there was a deeper reason.
Nellie L. Thompson's study on women analysts places Buxbaum among ninety-two women active in the psychoanalytic movement between 1920 and 1930. These, in addition to the forty who came to maturity in the two preceding decades. Janet Sayers mentions Buxbaum as one of the mothers of psychoanalysis by virtue of the fact that she was one of the first to join Anna Freud's seminar when it began in 1927.
Yet, Buxbaum is an unwritten-about figure in the history of psychoanalysis, as the dearth of information about her in psychoanalytic histories indicates. She is unknown beyond psychoanalytic and attendant circles, in part, because psychoanalysis, like other professions, is imbued with the star-system. Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, Helene Deutsch, Karen Horney are recognizable stars. They have all been written about - biography heightens visibility - and their own writings resulted in controversial developments and schools.
Buxbaum's work is not especially controversial in the context of psychoanalysis. She did not create theories based on her personal experience, for example, as Deutsch did when she wrote or as Freud did when he wrote. But she did explore the relationship of the personal to the professional in her 1951 essay, "Freud's Dream Interpretation in the Light of His Letters to Fliess." Here she discusses the importance of Freud's self-analysis to the development of psychoanalytic theory: his transference to Fliess was integral.¹
Throughout her life, Buxbaum worked with children with learning disabilities, but her writing did not focus on one particular aspect of psychoanalysis, said her colleague Gerald Olch in a 1994 interview: "Some people get interested in one ... [area], and they'll write paper after paper as they develop their ideas.... Edith was more reactive to her clinical experience.... I admired that. She was like that because she was such a vital person...."
But what kind of vitality are we speaking of? Could a lack of desire, or inability, to write about her internal life in relation to her ideas about psychoanalysis, have contributed to a narrower frame of reference than she might have had? On the other hand, she may have been capable of political activism in one area and not in others, but her sense of politics informed her thinking. Buxbaum's work is straight-forward reportage of cases, often beautiful for its insightfulness of children's problems in relation to their parents, especially their mothers. Her professional concerns center on the betterment of children's lives.
In her 1970 compilation of essays, she writes that "... [t]he development of human relations and empathy with people make it possible for ... [the child] to forego cruelty and violence. Therein lies our hope for the survival of mankind.She believed that combining psychoanalytic theories with the education of children, parents and teachers could help bring about a better world.
Edith Buxbaum was born in 1902 Vienna, the only child of Janet Seidler Buxbaum and Samuel Buxbaum. The mother worked inside the home, the father outside. He was in the wholesale dry goods business. In a 1979 interview with Sanford Gifford, Buxbaum said neither of her parents knew anything about analysis. " ... my getting into this kind of field is like a chicken was bringing up some ducks. They didn't know what happened." Buxbaum's mother wanted her to become a professional musician, and her father "couldn't understand that I wanted to study at all.... He thought I should stay home and learn how to ... cook."±²
Buxbaum's mother had a difficult time being away from her mother. She and her husband raised their child in an extended-family atmosphere in her parents' apartment building. " ... I was constantly going back and forth between my parents' and my grandparents' apartments," Buxbaum said in a 1978 interview with her colleague, Lawrence Schwartz.±³
Bruno Bettelheim, played back and forth in the apartment house, too. He was a year her junior; and according to Heidi Kirschner, the one-year age difference held considerable weight for Buxbaum. She exaggerated her role as the older cousin, making sure Bettelheim knew exactly who had the seniority and power between them.
Buxbaum wrote an important piece of autobiographical material, an introduction to her husband's compilation of essays on applied psychoanalysis. But she did not mention her early childhood, including whether she lived with a house full of aunts, uncles and other cousins or what the relationships were like between families and family members. However, in the Schwartz interview, she makes a point of discussing her mother's relationship with her mother's mother.
When Buxbaum was eight years old, her father was offered a job in Prague. She and her parents moved, but her mother was homesick. She wanted to be near her mother; so the family returned to Vienna. "Her doctor, who should have known better but didn't advised my father to move back to Vienna." There Buxbaum remained (with occasional excursions) until she fled Austria in 1937, a year before the Nazis incorporated Austria into the German Reich. She was thirty-five years old.
Vienna's cultural life, with its music, art, theatre and psychoanalytic emphasis amidst the Jewish intellegentsia - helped shape Buxbaum's political and social consciousness. Whatever her situation was at home, she enjoyed a social life that included friendships and associations connected to a community whose cravings for mental development were satisfied by rigorous academic activity and the expectation of ready conversation in neighborhood coffee houses.
For Buxbaum, as for her best friend Annie Pink (later to become Dr. Annie Reich and Mrs. Wilhelm Reich), psychoanalysis was synonymous with the spontaneity of youth. Both belonged to the youth movement, a grassroots medley of teen-clubs often formed around a particular set of politics, such as Zionism or socialism. Bettelheim seems to have been in the same youth group as his cousin and A. Reich, indicating that the cousins continued living in close proximity during their teens years. In his he remembers the hikes and outings his comrades took in the Vienna woods:
... the excursions [taken regularly on Sundays] ...were equally conducive to play and to the exploration of radical ideas concerning politics and human relations, including those within the family. From exploring what seemed to us new ideas about human relations, it was only a short step to forming affectionate attachments, the nature of which we so earnestly discussed.
Here Bettelheim mentions his friends' ability to discuss familial relationships; yet, he neglects to mention that his cousin belonged to his group. Nor does Buxbaum mention in her writings or interviews that her cousin belonged to her group. Yet, each mentions that Otto Fenichel, another future psychoanalyst, had been an important member.
Buxbaum became acquainted with psychoanalysis while in the youth movement. This was during the early part of World War I, around 1914, when she was twelve years old. She told Schwartz that what she learned in the youth movement "`was more important than any school.'" But where did she and her friends et their introduction to psychoanalysis?, Schwartz asked. "... Fenichel and [Wilhelm] Reich were medical students at that time, so they read books! You know, everybody read books at that time, so they got acquainted with Freud. They were not even psychiatrists yet."
"But why did you, as a youngster, get interested in psychoanalysis?," Schwartz asked.
Well, I probably had my own problems. I think that one of the lectures that was very important to me, and probably central to my interests, was a lecture by Fenichel on sadism and masochism that I heard when I was 14 years old .... I listened to it and I was fascinated. During the war, when I was 16, I went to camp for the first time .... [There] I read Freud's... and I knew it by heart for years.
"Lots ... of people have ... problems and conflicts, but you just latched onto psychoanalysis," Schwartz said.
"Yes, I latched onto it. I also had a mother who was a classical hysteric, and it helped me to understand her." Buxbaum's youth set the stage for her future career. While in the last year of high school, she and about nine of her friends - including future psychoanalysts Jennie Pollack, Robert Waelder, Edward Bibring and Greta Lehnert - composed, what Buxbaum says, was the first pedagogic analytic seminar. They met in Wilhelm Reich's rented room, and a student of her future teacher, August Aichhorn, did the teaching.
In 1925, by the time she was twenty-three, Buxbaum had received her Ph.D. from the University of Vienna. A year later, she received her teachers degree; and from 1926 to 1935, she taught high school at Vienna's (As a Viennese teenager, New York psychoanalyst Else Pappenheim, now in her eighties, was in Buxbaum's Social Studies class).
Buxbaum wanted to work with "children with difficulties," so she arranged to speak with Aichhorn who was noted for work in this area:
... He met me at the University and we walked up and down in the corridors ... and he told me that if I wanted to work with these children, that was fine ... [;] all I had to do was ... get an analysis.
She told Gifford: "... So if Aichhorn says I should have an analysis, I'm going to have an analysis. I didn't have any money, but I kind of figured somehow I'm going to do it...." After interviews with Anna Freud, Helene Deutsch and Paul Federn, Buxbaum was accepted into analysis with Hermann Nunberg. She saw him six days a week for three years. This analysis was rooted in "the Oedipus Complex and the father daughter relationship."
Around 1935, when she was already analyzing, she took a second analysis with Salome Guttman Isakower. The material in this analysis was significantly different. In the female to female environment, the relationship with her mother prevailed, though "not entirely so," Buxbaum told Schwartz. "[B]ecause one of the very important aspects of my second analysis was the death of my father, which occurred at that time. (Samuel Buxbaum died February 7, 1934).
In 1929, Buxbaum became an Associate Member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute. Her training included work with Ludwig Jekels, Wilhelm Reich, Anna Freud, Helene Deutsch and Paul Federn. Deutsch and Federn were her supervisors. She graduated in 1932 and taught Paedogogic Seminars until 1937 when she received her Certificate in Child Analysis and had to leave Vienna. Buxbaum had been politically active. The youth groups fostered political activism (of the right-wing variety as well as the left). During the Schuschnigg regime, she had been working for the underground, feeding and hiding socialists. She was caught, jailed and lost her teaching job because she had been employed by the State. Buxbaum to Gifford:
... I was not a card carrying Communist, but I was a what you call it, a traveler ... a fellow traveler and they kind of booked me as a Communist and after I had been arrested ... whenever there was anything going on in Vienna, we are the communists, we are guilty. They charged me, they came and got me, made me pay money. It was constant.... I mean whenever ... something was going on, they came and they demanded you pay 200 - 300 dollars, not dollars, shillings .... So that's why I decided I can't stay there. That's how I got out; and thanks to Hitler, I got out before Hitler.
Anschluss. March 1938. The Nazis annex Vienna. Buxbaum is in New York. She gets her mother out and her friend, Fritz Schmidl. He would become her husband in 1944 and her mother would live with them until her death in 1962. Buxbaum's cousin, Bruno Bettelheim, came to the United States in 1939 after Buchenwald and Dachau.
Buxbaum worked in New York from 1937 to 1946. She taught for the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, was on the faculty of the New York School for Social Research, gave guest lectures or seminars at the 69 Bank Street Cooperative for Teachers and for the Child Welfare League. She was a consultant to the Little Red Schoolhouse, the Town School, the Children's Aid Society and the Community Service Society.
During this time, New York psychoanalytic life was fraught with controversy between analysts who wanted only medical doctors to practice and those who believed, with Freud, that lay analysts were essential to the discipline. When Freud lost his battle with the American medical establishment, Buxbaum's career and those of other lay analysts, many of whom were European refugees, was in jeopardy.
In addition, personal battles were rampant. Buxbaum was in the middle of one that may have contributed to her leaving New York. In a 1994 interview, New York child psychoanalyst, Judith Kestenberg said that Berta Bornstein, an early member of Anna Freud's seminar, was making it difficult for Buxbaum professionally and that Buxbaum felt she had to leave New York:
She was very competitive with Berta Bornstein....Berta Bornstein came here and usurped the child analytic field as if it was hers .... Edith felt she was pushed out and she doesn't belong there anymore. And she went around America to find a place.... She didn't want to be the second. She wanted to be the first. She told me that there's no point staying here because Berta Bornstein won't let her do anything. Berta was a very very mean woman. Berta was pretty terrible. When Margaret Mahler suggested me for a training analyst, she said no. ... If I went with (indecipherable) I will never be a training analyst in New York.
Sandford Gifford writes that "[s]ome New York colleagues found her `arrogant' and `bossy.'"²¸ In his 1975 interview with Marie Briehl, they discussed the child analyst organization she and other non-medical child therapists tried to form but which Buxbaum seemed to have sabotaged. Briehl said ... this group, after a few meetings mostly bent on some sort of formal organization, failed to come off and I am sad to say that it was because of unresolved difficulties on the part of the newest American, Dr. Buxbaum, to be precise, with our organization.
Somehow or other there was unspoken criticism--not exactly unspoken, it was actually written in a letter to someone, that she had wanted to be the ..., she felt somehow or other that the others of us didn't accept her that way. Actually, we didn't think in those terms. This was a small group, it was democratically organized, we didn't think anybody was a leader or a but we had something to contribute and a great deal to learn from the others. We felt that way about Dr.Buxbaum.
In contrast to Briehl's remarks, Gerald Olch said: "I did not see [Edith] maneuver in a political way ..., to get power. To use the power to get what you want in contrast to being open and encouraging people to have their own opinion."
In New York, Buxbaum was one of many refugee analysts who had studied with Freud or members of his circle. In Seattle, she would become a celebrity and the only female analyst during her lifetime. Lack of a medical degree would not hinder her ability to develop a practice or a professional following. In fact, her connection to social work and education would ultimately allow her to extend beyond the limited medically-trained psychoanalytic base. Due to her work in those areas, she would be responsible for touching the lives of a host of social workers and educators who studied with her before her death from ovarian cancer in 1982.
Buxbaum helped build the Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute (SPI), which was first a study group under the aegis of the San Francisco Institute. (The SPI became the Seattle Institute for Psychoanalysis (SIP) after its bankruptcy in the 1980s. One of Buxbaum's analysands was the focus of this case which contains strong elements of sexism).
Buxbaum became the Seattle Institute's Child Analysis Division Head. She was clinical professor of Psychiatry at the University of Washington. She was consultant to the Family Society of Seattle, the Ryther Child Center, The Little School and the Indian Headstart Program. She directed and helped found the Northwest Clinic, a school for "disturbed" children,at the Northwest Clinic for Neurology and Psychiatry. In 1969, she helped found Project P ("for the prevention of difficulties between parents and infants").
In Seattle, Buxbaum had considerable power. Sometimes, it stretched into areas where she did not belong. For example, in the 1940s Judith Kestenberg (whom Buxbaum had occasionally invited to speak) was in Seattle to adopt a child. According to Kestenberg, Buxbaum was against the adoption. There was a trial. Buxbaum told the judge that Kestenberg, age forty-seven, was too old to adopt. I asked Kestenberg why she thought Buxbaum would do such a thing. "I think that if she didn't have it, then I shouldn't have it either." The judge allowed Kestenberg and her husband the baby.
Kestenberg said of Buxbaum: "She was very influential in Seattle. She made Seattle.... Everybody went to her for advice. So the social worker went to her for advice" with the result that the social worker told the judge not to let Kestenberg have the child. "She had a mean streak in her ...,"Kestenberg said.
And perhaps some unresolved countertransferences: Although Buxbaum was not restricted biologically from having children, she had thought about adopting a child herself, but thought she was too old, Kestenberg said. (Schmidl, who was a few years older than Buxbaum, was luke warm about the idea of raising a child at their ages). (Dr. Heidi Kirschner confirms this). In addition, while the Buxbaum/Schmidls were living in New York, Kestenberg had been Buxbaum's analysand.
In the mid-1970s, one social worker at the time an RN, now also a psychologist), was interested in joining Buxbaum's non-M.D. Child Therapy Certification Program. She made the appointment, went in the Northwest Clinic, walked up the stairs, found Buxbaum's office. The first words out of the woman's mouth were: 'What makes you think you can join this program? ... Well, do you write anything?"
"I couldn't wait to get out of there," the social worker said. I thought she was a "non-nurturing kind of woman who puts it right to you and if you don't have the right answer, she wipes you off the slate." After she was accepted into the program, the social worker saw another side of Buxbaum. She had been treating a rebellious girl of about eight. She thought she was not capable of treating the child. "I don't like girls to begin with," the social worker told her. She thought she would not be fair to them because her mother was hard on her. But Buxbaum said: "You're going to learn to treat her.... You'll be ok. You can do it," and of course, "I did."
Buxbaum was very exacting, the young social worker said, very demanding. "Excellence was what one achieves, nothing less... I think it was her to check out somebody to see if they could handle [what she put out] and see what they would do with it."
Buxbaum responded to people from their strengths, not their weaknesses, said one male analyst who wants his anonymity. She focused on action, what people could do. (She chose her friends this way, as well. Could they play music - she played violin, viola, and piano - with her? Go hiking? Were they professionals? Intellectuals? Could they offer good conversation?) "I saw her looking at an individual; and if she thought they had what they needed to do the work, she would nurture them. And if they didn't, she didn't have much to do with them," another said.
Linda McDonald, a social worker in the same Child Therapy Program as the first social worker, said:
Edith was very much individuated at all times that I saw her...." I see women oftentimes using their ability to merge and to empathize and to walk in the other person's shoes as a female characteristic that doesn't get wiped out with development but oftentimes that's available, needs to be available, because we are nurturers of our children.... Some people pride themselves on walking in the other person's shoes and empathizing, and Edith prided herself in being individuated.
McDonald said that publicly Buxbaum would rise to the occasion. If a visitor came to present a paper, "she would think of a point that was a ... little bit different ... so that when you went to a meeting, you didn't just get the presenters opinions and ideas; you also got a little gem from Edith..., and it made sense.... It didn't always bring you along, but it was certainly entertaining.... [and] you were ready for a presentation by Edith.
The Seattle Institute for Psychoanalysis (SIP) houses the Edith Buxbaum Library. The Edith Buxbaum Foundation for Children sponsors publications, research and workshops. An Edith Buxbaum Prize encourages writing on child analysis. If she had wished to become a big fish in a small pond, indeed, one that was barely dug out, when she arrived in Seattle on January 1, 1947, Buxbaum's wish would certainly come true. Here, she found a niche of her own, and no one to compete with.
In March 1993, the American Psychoanalytic Association site-visit team to the Seattle Institute for Psychoanalysis included the following in its report:
... From all we heard, we think that you have not mourned the loss, nor deidealized the image of Edith Buxbaum. Think here of Loewald's view of the necessity to transform troubling ghosts into innocuous ancestors.... Edith Buxbaum produced a powerful legacy, but one that needs to be put in perspective. She was a gifted female analyst of another era. She did not, maybe she could not, bring other women into the fold. Several said that she encouraged women to stay out, and to form their own group outside of the Institute ... With all due credits assigned, with love for her for all the good she contributed, with acceptance and full use of her memorial library, and with an irreducible debt of gratitude, is it not time to say goodbye to Edith Buxbaum?
It's a necessary loss for all of you now as one important way to make room for women of today to have a chance for full recognition and participation here at SIP. This `genetic interpretation' is ... offered as one way of reflecting on what has possibly had the Institute so stuck on such an important issue as having males and females represented at all levels in the Institute. SIP is similarly bereft when it comes to ethnic minorities....
Buxbaum had become such an icon in Seattle that until the site-visit, Buxbaum's role in the psychoanalytic community had, for the most part, gone unquestioned. I came to write about Buxbaum because I had questions about her role in relation to women and in relation to the psychoanalytic learning environment. I wondered if the two issues were connected.
Regarding my question "Why did she not bring women analysts to Seattle?," Morry Tolmach, a social worker friend of Buxbaum's said: "If Edith wanted more women analysts in Seattle, there would have been more women analysts in Seattle," M.D. dominance, notwithstanding.
Buxbaum was adamant about mothers staying home with their children, especially in the first two years. What impact did this attitude have on the young women she supervised, some of whom were contemplating pregnancy? On the males, whose wives may have been contemplating pregnancy? Charles Mangham said that one doctor was in training and became pregnant. She could not keep up. She was not competent. He said there were some other good female psychiatrists in training, but they became pregnant and quit too.
Did Buxbaum's opinion of her mother as an hysteric impact the way she interacted with women? Buxbaum appears to have been her father's girl. One former woman student told me that once when Buxbaum spoke of her father she said, "he loved me best." Since she had no siblings, one may surmise that even in old age she was in competition with her mother or Bettelheim or others who lived in the apartment building with them.
Did Buxbaum identify with her father and his work outside the home more than with her mother and her work inside the home? If so, how did this affect her relationships within the context of the psychoanalytic learning environment?
Oral history interviewees, including analysands, indicate that Buxbaum identified more with children than with their parents. This may not be unusual, especially among child analysts, but did Buxbaum's specific identification stem from feelings of early-childhood deprivation?
Why did she choose not to have children and not to marry until her early forties? Did this decision have to do with the state of world affairs in the 1930s and 1940s? Did it have to do with her relationship to men, class and power in the work place, as much as with her place between her parents? Did Edith Buxbaum feel it was all right for Edith Buxbaum to work outside the home on a full-time basis but not all right for mothers? If so, as a Freudian, as a drive-theorist, did the confidence she exhibited in the public sphere mask feelings of being less of a woman than she might have been had she given birth?
These questions influence my relationship to psychoanalysis, to the process I view as an art form, and to the relationship I once experienced as magic but which I now know was destructive in some of its elements. When I conceived this project in 1991, I questioned how psychoanalysts could justify presenting cases without including a discussion of their counter-transferences. I also questioned psychoanalysts' abilities to train clinicians not to mold analysands' minds or each others.' Four years later, these questions remain.
New York, Winter 1994