It’s the birthday of Anna Freud (1895) (books by this author), a pioneer in psychoanalytic child psychology. Freud’s father was famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. She was born in Vienna and was deeply unhappy as child, preferring the company of her nurse, Josephine, to her mother and sister, Sophie, whom many considered more beautiful than Anna.
Anna Freud suffered from depression and an eating disorder as a teen, spending much of her time at “health farms” in order to gain weight. Her schooling was intermittent and she later said she learned more from listening to her father and his houseguests than she ever did in school. She began reading her father’s work at the age of 15. He analyzed her for the first time when she was in her early 20s and continued for several years.
It was while working as an elementary school teacher that Anna Freud first began to be fascinated by the psychological makeup of children, particularly their fears, secret wishes, obsessions and nightmares. Though she never obtained a medical degree, she published a landmark study, The Ego and Mechanisms of Defence, in 1935. By 1938, the Nazis had begun to harass the Freud family, attempting to arrest Sigmund Freud, who was very ill. Anna offered herself instead, and before she was taken away, her father gave her poison to kill herself in case of torture. Anna Freud was released, and the family immigrated to London, where she nursed her father until his death.