Dorothy Dinnerstein Biography


Dorothy Dinnerstein, a professor of psychology, wrote The Mermaid and the Minotaur: Sexual Arrangements and the Human Malaise. The book suggests that society’s current gender arrangements in which women pervasively serve as the primary nurturers of infants and young children result in human pathology. The Mermaid and the Minotaur is considered a classic text in women’s studies and has been translated into seven languages.

Dinnerstein graduated from Brooklyn College and received a Ph.D. in psychology from the New School for Social Research in 1951. She began teaching at Rutgers University, Newark, in 1959. While at Rutgers, she helped to create the Institute for Cognitive Studies, a distinguished graduate program. She also published numerous journal articles in cognitive psychology and fought for equality for women academics.

A political activist as well as an academic, Dinnerstein marched and protested in both New York and Washington, D.C., as a member of Demeter’s Daughters, a civil disobedience group. She was disappointed that many readers of The Mermaid and the Minotaur focused too narrowly on gender inequality and overlooked the book’s larger concern with world peace. The bombing of Hiroshima during World War II had left an indelible mark on Dinnerstein, and she believed that the reckless use of rapidly accelerating technology was symbolic of a destructive force that could only be neutralized by the...

(The entire section is 517 words.)


Baruch, Elaine Hoffman, and Lucienne J. Serrano. “Dorothy Dinnerstein.” In Women Analyze Women. New York: New York University Press, 1988. This interview places Dinnerstein’s work in the context of other theorists and positions Dinnerstein with those feminists involved in peace movements and ecology. Dinnerstein acknowledged that The Mermaid and the Minotaur grew out of her personal experience with psychoanalysis.

Caplan, Paula J. “Dorothy Dinnerstein (1923-1992).” American Psychologist 51, no. 5 (May, 1996): 550. An obituary. Gives detailed biographical information.

Dinnerstein, Dorothy. Preface to The Mermaid and the Minotaur: Sexual Arrangements and Human Malaise. New York: Harper and Row, 1976. Dinnerstein outlines the original plans for The Mermaid and the Minotaur, in which the current text was only one chapter. She identifies her intellectual influences and states that her hope for the book is that it will strengthen the effort (already under way) toward shared early parenthood.

Gornick, Vivian, et al. “The Mermaid and the Memories.” The Women’s Review of Books 10, no. 7 (April, 1993): 7-8. Remembrances from five of Dinnerstein’s friends and colleagues. Supplies personal biographical information not found elsewhere.