Evelyn Hooker was a psychologist most notable for her 1957 paper "The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual" in which she administered psychological tests to groups of self-identified homosexuals and heterosexuals and asked experts, based on those tests alone, to select the homosexual people. The experiment, which other researchers subsequently repeated, purportedly demonstrates that most self-identified homosexuals are no worse in social adjustment than the general population.
She was born Evelyn Gentry and grew up with 8 brothers and sisters in the Colorado Plains. When she was 13, her family moved to Sterling, Colorado.
In 1924 she became a student at the University of Colorado while working as a maid for a rich Boulder family. After receiving her Masters degree, she became one of 11 women involved in the PhD program in psychology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, having been refused referral to Yale. She was awarded her PhD in 1932.
After teaching for only one year at the Maryland College for Women, she contracted tuberculosis and spent the next year in a sanatorium in Arizona.
In 1937 Evelyn received a fellowship to go to Europe. She enrolled at the Berlin Institute of Psychotherapy. In 1942 while a teacher at UCLA, Evelyn married writer Don Caldwell. She became close to one of her students, Sam From, who introduced her in 1943 to the gay and lesbian subculture of the time. He challenged her to scientifically study "people like him."
Despite the social, moral and scientific climate of the post-war period, Hooker became increasingly convinced that most gay men were perfectly socially adjusted and that this could be proven through scientific tests.
In 1948 she divorced her husband and moved to a guest cottage at the Salter Avenue home of Edward Hooker, professor of English at UCLA and poetry scholar. They married in London in 1951.
In 1961 Hooker was invited to lecture in Europe and in 1967, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) asked her to produce a report on what the institution should do about homosexual men.
She retired from her research at the age of 63 and opened a private practice. Most of her clients were gay men and lesbians.
Hooker was the first social scientist to do research and write on the gay community. Her studies contributed to a change in the attitudes of the psychological community towards homosexuality and to the American Psychiatric Association's decision to remove homosexuality from its handbook of disorders in 1973. This in turn helped change the attitude of society at large.
Evelyn Hooker died in Los Angeles, at the age of 89.