“Her career focused attention on the particular problems faced by minority youth, and her work ushered in new approaches to treatment and remains a landmark in the history of psychology.”
~ Encyclopedia of Arkansas
In Hot Springs, Arkansas, Harold H. and Kate Florence Phipps welcomed their daughter, Mamie, into the world on October 18, 1917. Harold, who emigrated to the United States from the British West Indies, worked as a physician and Kate aided him in managing his practice. The importance of family, self-sufficiency and education was paramount in the Phipps family, which included her brother, Harold.
Bright and accomplished, she excelled in learning, including at Langston High School from where she graduated in 1934. Mamie attended segregated schools but she enjoyed privileges, such as being involved in recreational activities and going away on holiday, that many other Blacks were unable to enjoy. She was mindful that her parents’ education, industry, perseverance and commitment were the source of her happiness. Mamie knew that not many Black men managed places of the elite, such as her father did at a private resort, and that not many Black women had the opportunity to be a housewife and not work, such as her mother. Her respect for her parents’ sacrifices was greater enhanced by this understanding and further propelled her in her personal drive to be excel.
Upon graduation, 16-year old Mamie Phipps elected to attend Howard University, a historically Black institution of higher learning in Washington, D.C. Although she had offers elsewhere, she selected Howard University because of its stellar reputation and exceptional faculty. Choosing to study mathematics and physics, she soon discovered that her interests were not supported. Phipps believed this was due to sexism against women entering a field dominated by men.