If you consider yourself a psychonaut or are at least a little bit familiar with the psychedelic scene, you’ll probably recognize names like Hofmann, McKenna, Leary and Grof. Each in their own way a pioneer when it comes to psychedelics.
But where are the women of the psychedelic movement? Well, they don’t seem to be as inclined to step into the limelight. That’s why we’re honouring just a few of the female pioneers.
Ann Shulgin (born 1931)
Ann is a former therapist, author, speaker and widow of world-renowned chemist Alexander ‘Sasha’ Shulgin. Like Laura Huxley, Ann Shulgin is so much more than ‘just the significant other’. She was a pioneer like her husband and co-authored the classic books PiHKAL and TiHKAL.
Ann met Alexander in 1978, when working with substances such as MDMA and 2C-B in therapeutic sessions. This was in a time when the substances were still legal and she was one of the hundreds of therapists who successfully employed these new drugs.
It was Alexander, an artist on a molecular level, who reintroduced MDMA to the world by developing a new synthesis method. He helped psychologists adopt the substance in the 1970s and continued developing and evaluating psychoactive compounds.
Their own lab rats
Alexander and Ann wrote about their work in the books PIHKAL (Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved) and TIHKAL (Tryptamines I Have Known And Loved). Together with a group of close friends, the Shulgins explored hundreds of new chemical connections created by Alexander. When asked why he sampled the creations personally, Alexander said: "There are real problems involved in testing a rat for empathy or changes in self-image."
Alexander died of cancer in 2014, but Ann remains a strong advocate for the use of psychedelics in therapy. Both Shulgins were instrumental in the struggle for the recognition of psychedelic research and education.
Education, not propaganda
In an interview on the subject of drug education, Ann said: "I believe in drug education. Education, not propaganda. We should have drug education all over the US and probably in every high school. I think it should be required. (…) Everyone should have a good strong education, but they need to know the facts rather than politics and prejudice."
Azarius would like to thank the Shulgins for all their contributions. Trust us, if you haven’t read PiHKAL or TiHKAL yet, you really should!
Financially, the Shulgins hardly had any advantage of their labour of love. If you want to give back to them, donations are welcome on the Shulgin website.
The great women of psychedelics
We hope you enjoyed this brief summary of influential female psychonauts and driving forces of the psychedelic movement. It always seemed weird how it's mostly a boys club.
Did we miss an important lady psychonaut? Let us know in the comments!