It is no secret that women have been underrepresented in the medical and scientific fields throughout history. In terms of psychedelic research, this is also the case. However, in this new wave of psychedelic research, or the ‘Psychedelic Renaissance’, women have made their presence known. To celebrate this, and ever-increasing diversity, we have researched 10 women in psychedelics you need to know! We will start, however, with the ‘Top 5 Women of Psychedelic History’…
For a woman to be independently involved in science and research, was rare. Therefore a lot (though not all) of the women on this list are the spouses of famous men. Many of the names that loom large such as Huxley, Hoffer, and Hubbard, would not have been able to reach the same height of research were it not for the support, feedback, and assistance of their wives. So! Without further ado, let’s learn about these psychedelic women of the past!
1. Maria Sabina
If you know your psychedelic history, you know that Maria Sabina represents ground zero of the West’s introduction to psychedelics. Born in 1894 in Mexico, she was a practicing Mazatec shaman. She was the first to let Western visitors observe her mushroom veladas (healing ceremonies). It was this experience, written about by R. Gordon Wasson for Life magazine (Seeking The Magic Mushroom) that bought magic mushrooms into public consciousness. Rumored to have been visited by everyone from Bob Dylan to John Lennon, Sabina was later less enthusiastic stating;
‘Before Wasson, nobody took the children (mushrooms) simply to find God. They were always taken to cure the sick.’
In any case, the ripples made by Maria Sabina introducing Wasson to the entheogenic mushrooms are still being felt today.
2. Mabel Dodge Luhan
Mabel Dodge Luhan was born in Buffalo, New York in 1897, known for being an eccentric and popular socialite. Hers is the first (Western) record of a peyote experience from a female perspective. During a party in 1914, a guest, the anthropologist Raymond Harrington, revealed he had the psychedelic cactus with him. Luhan insisted that they experience it then and there. Interestingly, although Luhan does describe her hallucinations, she also explores the social dynamics and power relations within the ceremony. The majority of future accounts become rather more inward focusing on the part of the tripper, or just more clinical. Luhan’s account stands apart as an insightful exception.
3. Rose Hoffer
Rose Hoffer was the wife of Abram Hoffer, a psychedelic researcher and advocate of the use of LSD to treat alcoholism. In the 1950s she agreed to ingest LSD with her husband, along with his collaborator Humphry Osmond and his wife Jane. Despite worrying she was going to ruin the ‘experiment’ Hoffer admitted that the psychedelics were making her nauseous. It turned out that many of the other participants felt this way too, but had been scared to admit it! It is small anecdotes like these that exemplify how important these unacknowledged women were behind the scenes, and how they aided pioneering discovery.
4. Betty Eisner
Betty Eisner (1915-2004) was an American psychologist known for her pioneering work in psychedelic research in tandem with psychotherapy. One of the rare independent female scientists of the 50s and 60, she conducted some of the first research into LSD as a treatment for alcoholism. She maintained a strong interest in psychedelics throughout her career and was credited (along with Sidney Cohen) with developing the practice of having both male and female guides during therapeutic hallucinogenic sessions.
5. Laura Huxley
Laura Huxley (1911-2007) was the second wife of the iconic writer and psychedelic explorer Aldous Huxley. Though an esteemed therapist, lecturer, author, and musical prodigy, it is probably for being Huxley’s muse and LSD companion that she is best remembered (they used to dose LSD and listen to Bach together!). A dedicated advocate on the powers of human nature, perhaps inspired by her psychedelic experiences, she wrote several self-help books including ‘You Are Not The Target’. In her goal of ‘nurturing the possible human’, she founded the organization Children: Our Ultimate Investment. Vocal in her support of psychedelic treatments, it was she who administered Huxley’s last dose of LSD as he lay dying. His throat ravaged by cancer, he wrote her a note
‘LSD— Try it intermuscular 100mm‘
Soothed and guided to his death by his final trip, Laura Huxley claimed it was
“ One of the most beautiful deaths anyone in the room had ever seen.’
It goes without saying, there have been many more psychedelic women forgotten in history. Nevertheless, we hope that this has been a nice and informative history lesson, with the aim to get you excited for our next edition— Top 5 Psychedelic Women Now!