Terence and Dennis McKenna. Timothy Leary. Michael Pollan. Rick Doblin. Paul Stamets. James Fadiman. Gabor Mate. David Bronner. Stanislav Grof. Albert Hoffman. I'm sure most of these names are very familiar to you, if not all of them.
Can you name 10 women who also greatly contributed to our nascent industry just as easily? I find that most people can't. But that does not mean that women did not play a significant part in pioneering psychedelic research and in bringing the renaissance back. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
Oftentimes, women shy away from or don't feel the need to be in the spotlight. Maybe it’s societal conditioning, our own limiting beliefs, or we’re just that humble. Oftentimes, we’re the ones silently accommodating, compromising, and sacrificing for our partner, our family, and our work, going unrecognized, unappreciated, unacknowledged.
So, let's take a moment to celebrate and pay homage to the female heroines that paved the way in our psychedelic space.
Acknowledging Female Psychedelic Pioneers
First and foremost, Maria Sabina.
The Mazateca shaman of Oaxaca, Mexico who was the first to introduce magic mushrooms to a westerner, opened the floodgates to psychedelic research and put psilocybin on the map.
This westerner was actually Valentina Wasson, a pediatrician, scientist, mycology enthusiast, and enthomycologist. Her work in the psychedelic world often got overshadowed by her husband's - Gordon Wasson.
While Gordon’s popular article “Seeking the Magic Mushroom,” did appear in Life Magazine, Valentina’s article “I ate the sacred mushrooms” was also published in This Week magazine just a few days later in 1957. After collecting some spores, they gave mushroom samples to Albert Hoffman who was able to isolate the psilocybe compound.
Valentina was the first to suggest that psilocybin can be used to treat alcoholism, narcotic addiction, mental disorders, and end-of-life care.
A published author, scholar, ethnobotany teacher, and non-profit leader. Kat co-founded Botanical Dimensions in 1985 with her former husband, Terence McKenna, an organization that aims to document medicinal and shamanic plants and their uses.
A wealthy New York socialite tried Peyote for the very first time in America back in 1914. Then again in 1937 and documented her entire trip, using the term “expansion of consciousness” that is so widely used today.
A therapist, author, and contributor to psychedelic research. Gertrude co-wrote A Bibliography of LSD & Mescaline: From the Earliest Researches to the Beginnings of Suppression with Oscar Janiger in 1971.
Ann and her late husband, Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin - godfather of psychedelics who discovered MDMA, co-authored two cult classics - PiHKAL (1991) & TiHKAL (1997) - based on their psychedelic experiences.
The work of these women paved the way for and allowed modern-day female leaders to rise, including:
Shelby Hartman & Madison Margolin of DoubleBlind Magazine
Amanda Feilding of Beckley Foundation
Bia Labate of Chacruna
And many more journalists, scientists, researchers, lawmakers, therapists, coaches, journeyers, artists, and entrepreneurs will continue to raise the bar and smash the proverbial glass ceiling.
Some Barriers To Entry I Found
It's not just the psychedelic industry, most industries are male-dominated. When I was a bright-eyed, fresh grad entering the corporate world, not only did I not have a role model that I identified with (BIPOC female here!) I felt intimidated and pressured to conform and uphold the status quo.
This meant I only wore black, blue, or gray clothes to work that weren’t flattering to my body, so I could avoid unwanted attention, misunderstandings, or office gossip. This meant speaking or behaving in a certain way to be heard or to influence change from behind-the-scenes. This meant getting used to having my opinions and work devalued, dismissed, or stolen.
After 6+ years, I had enough and in 2018 said goodbye to corporate to pursue entrepreneurship and the digital nomad lifestyle. Somewhere along the way, guided by the universe, psychedelics entered my life. Shortly after, I pivoted my marketing business to serve integration therapists and coaches.
Having been in the space for a little while now, I noticed that most psychedelic users are accepting, passionate, a bit quirky (like me), and, most of all, heart-centered. However, I find myself wondering: ‘Why is the gender balance so off?’ ‘Where are all the female visionaries?’ ‘The BIPOC trailblazers?’
And I know I’m not the only one. Otherwise, communities like Women on Psychedelics and Cosmic Sister wouldn’t exist. Otherwise, the term “Psychedelic Feminism” wouldn’t have been coined and women-only integration circles wouldn’t be so popular.
I know we’re still in the early stages, but since this is the third wave, I’d like to see a faster progression. Let’s widen the door so we can allow more of the divine feminine in to harmonize with the masculine energy.
Cool. So, how do we do that?
5 Things Women Can Do Now To Amplify Our Voice
Now, I don’t have all (or even half) of the answers. I’m going through it, exploring and pushing boundaries just as much as any other women in our space, but I did learn a thing or two on my journey.
- Get rid of your limiting beliefs & self-worth issues
“As above, so below, as within, so without”
I don’t think I need to say much here since we all do psychedelics. Sit with the medicine, heal your trauma and integrate your lessons. Whatever obstacle you’re up against, allow yourself to feel the fear, the self-doubt, the uncertainty, because that’s only normal, and then do it anyway.
- Surround yourself with allies from both genders
It’s amazing to join a tribe of women who are working towards the same goals, but we are only half of the equation. We need to get buy-in from the other genders as well, so let’s not exclude them.
Also, if you can’t find that tribe, create your own! That’s what I did with my friend, Dana Harvey from The Flourish Academy, we started the Vancouver Women in Psychedelics & Entheogens Meetup group.
- Be clear with & stick to your boundaries
Especially in a professional setting, make sure you clearly communicate your boundaries when or (preferably) before someone crosses them. Then, stay strong and do not backpedal...or even give in to the urge to over-explain yourself. Compromising on your personal values will eventually lead to resentment, bitterness and anger...which you’ll need to do even more medicine work to decalcify from.
Not worth it - be true to yourself!
- Invest in sales & fix your relationship with money
Stop that image of a greasy car salesman from fully forming in your mind...and let’s reframe it. Truth be told, we’re all in sales. We sell our ideas and ourselves to others every single day, whether at school, at work, or on a date.
I truly believe that it’s a fundamental life skill that should be taught in school. First, we must learn to delete the scarcity mindset, to elevate our self-worth, to ask for and charge/get paid for our value. When we learn to be unafraid of authentically selling, then we can generate financial abundance that can be used to evolve humanity.
- Find communities to plug into
Community is everything. These are the people who get you without speaking a word, who share similar values and a vision for our bright future. There are a lot of psychedelic organizations that are in need of volunteers to contribute to the community and mission they’re trying to build.
Here are some to look into:
Your local Psychedelic Society
Know that you’re not alone. Know that you’re not fighting the good fight by yourself. Know that you are part of our female tribe. We lift each other up and are stronger, more solid together.
If my thoughts resonate with you, please drop a comment below or reach out to me directly. I’d love to discuss how I can support you in your journey, so we can ultimately open the door wider for future women to thrive in our psychedelic space.
About the Author: Bea Chan
Founder | AKITA ‘A Kick In The @ss’ Agency
After profound psychedelic trips of her own, Bea dedicated her marketing agency to helping conscious healers transform the world by first transforming their business. Supporting coaches & therapists evolve from a 1:1 to 1:many client model by co-creating evergreen funnels that lead to online courses and group coaching programs is her jam!