The late child psychologist Margaret McFarland, a Teachers College alumna who mentored the legendary Fred Rogers and served as an off-screen advisor to the show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” was recently the focus of a belated obituary in the New York Times’ “Overlooked” series.
McFarland, who earned her Ph.D. in psychology at TC in 1938, was chief consultant to the celebrated children’s show for 20 years and “spoke regularly” with Rogers until her death in 1988, writes the Times’ Christina Caron. Rogers died in 2003.
“Her advice became so valuable to Rogers that he took extensive handwritten notes and recorded their meetings on audiocassettes,” Caron reports.
For her part, McFarland, a native of Pittsburgh, where the show was recorded, and a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh, called Rogers “a man who has not closed off the channels of communication between his childhood and his manhood,” adding “repression, you see, is not his major defense.”
Her advice became so valuable to Rogers that he took extensive handwritten notes and recorded their meetings on audiocassettes.
—The New York Times “Overlooked” story
It was McFarland who prompted Rogers to switch from manipulating puppets to appearing on screen himself, telling him: “Fred, the children need to see you. They need you to help them distinguish between reality and fantasy.”
McFarland collaborated with the pediatrician and author Benjamin Spock and the psychologist Erik Erikson. The Times story notes her belief that an adequate understanding of child development is “crucial in the solution of many of the problems with which man is grappling.”
Read the New York Times “Overlooked” obituary on Margaret McFarland