Barnhouse, Ruth Tiffany Papers

Span Dates: 1915-1999, 2008
Bulk Dates:
Volume: 36.66 cubic feet


The papers of this clergywoman and psychotherapist reflect both her personal and professional life. Viewed as conservative in Boston/Cambridge and wildly radical in Dallas, these papers provide valuable insight into the spiritual journey of a woman within the structure of the Christian church. Contains personal and professional papers from 1915-96 related to her work as an Episcopal priest and psychotherapist, including correspondence, printed material, video and audio cassette tapes, photographs, memorabilia, manuscripts, writings, and speeches.

Hist/Bio Note

Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse was a Jungian psychiatrist, theologian, and ordained Episcopal priest known for being poet Sylvia Plath's psychiatrist, and for her theological publications and teachings related to homosexuality, sex, and women in the Christian church. Barnhouse was a noted advocate of psychiatric treatment to "cure" homosexuality. Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse was born in France in 1923. She was schooled in France and Germany before World War II. She received her B.A. from Barnard College, M.D. from Columbia University, and Th.M. from the Weston College School of Theology (Jesuit). She began private practice as a psychiatrist in 1956. As an attending staff psychiatrist at McLean Hospital, she served as psychiatrist to poet Sylvia Plath. She was also a clinical assistant in psychology at Harvard University. Barnhouse moved to Washington, D.C. in 1978 and worked as adjunct professor of pastoral theology at the Virginia Theological Seminary. From 1980-1989, she was on the faculty of Dallas's Southern Methodist University as professor of psychiatry and pastoral care at the Perkins School of Theology. Also in 1980, she was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church. In 1991, she began working as a consultant to the human resources department of a major Dallas corporation. She was a co-founder of the Dallas chapter of the Physicians for Social Responsibility. She was the president of Peacemakers, Inc., which put on an international women's conference entitled "Global Peace...from Vision to Reality" in 1988. She was also president of the Isthmus Institute, an organization concerned with the interactions between scientific and religious approaches to reality. She was an assistant editor of the Anglican Theological Review and a past president of the Conference of Anglican Theologians. She served on the joint commission on health and human affairs of the general convention of the Episcopal Church. She was the first woman and first lay person to be a fellow of the College of Preachers in Washington, D.C. and she served on its council as chair of the program and policy committee for six years. She frequently gave lectures, workshops, and radio-tv interviews acorss the country for psychiatric professional societies, mental health centers, pastors'schools, clergy and lay retreats, and civic groups. She is author of numerous publications including Homosexuality: A symbolic confusion (1977), Identity(1987), Clergy and the Sexual Revolution(1987), Sex and War (1991), A Woman's Identity (1994), and co-editor of Female: Christian Approaches to Sexuality.

Finding Aid

An online finding aid is available.


This collection is located at Smith College Special Collections Neilson Library 7 Neilson Drive Northampton MA 01063


Episcopal Church | Author/editor | Clergy Activist | Theology | Feminism