"As Watson’s steadfast partner in love and research, Rayner made a very sizable contribution to the history of psychology." (http://www.feministvoices.com/rosalie-rayner/)
Her name is rarely written without reference to scandalous adultery and never without mention of her more prominent husband. Details of her personal life-- an affair, the subsequent marriage, and even her parenting practices-- have received more recognition than her actual contributions to the science of psychology. Unsupported rumors that she and Watson measured their own physiological responses during sex have been more thoroughly detailed (Benjamin, Whitaker, Ramsey & Zeve, 2007) than her role in one of the most famous psychological experiments to date. Rosalie Rayner--as a researcher in her own right--studied at Vassar, successfully enrolled at John Hopkins, and studied alcohol, though details of the nature of her pre-Watson work are scarce. She co-authored the Little Albert experiment and an enormously popular guide to parenting--Psychological Care of Infant and Child. Her only independently authored publication is an article titled "I am the Mother of a Behaviorist's Sons," published in Parent's Magazine & Better Family Living. This might leave some with the impression that Watson was the driving force behind the more influential works, that her name was attached to these publications only because of her intimate relationship with Watson. What seems more likely is that few in this esteemed discipline would take her work seriously even before the scandal, and almost certainly no one--save her partner--would have respected Rayner's work after. She left Hopkins without her degree and assumed role of research assistant to her husband, mother to his sons.
To revise the opening quote: As a researcher, Rayner made a very sizable contribution to the history of psychology and to the scientific understanding of human emotion in early development.
For those doubting the relevance of this "thing" to cognitive science specifically, consider the historically systematic refusal to legitimize or support the work of qualified researchers on the basis of some irrelevant characteristic of body or behavior. Much fuss has been made over the so-called "File Drawer Problem"--how many results sit unpublished simply because they were null. But how many experiments--potentially null, potentially revolutionary--have gone unexecuted, unpublished, or unrecognized because of someone's race, gender, status, or reputation? How many "research assistants" have been uncredited for their work? Even among known contributors, their existence is often only acknowledged as a footnote in the storied pasts of individuals more privileged. Worse still, Rayner's story is neither uncommon nor a phenomenon confined to psychology's history.
Benjamin, L., Whitaker, J., Ramsey, R., & Zeve, D. (2007). "John B. Watson's alleged sex research: An appraisal of the evidence". American Psychologist, 62, 131-139.
Duke, C., Fried, S., Pliley, W., & Walker, D. (1989). Contributions to the history of psychology: LIX. Rosalie Rayner Watson: The mother of a behaviorist’s sons. Psychological Reports, 65, 163-169.
Watson, J. B. & Watson, R. R. (1928). Psychological Care of Infant and Child. New York: Norton.
Watson, R. R. (1930). I am the mother of a behaviorist’s sons. Parent’s Magazine & Better Family Living, 5(12), 16-18, 67-68.
Woolf, V. (1929). A room of one's own. Harvest Brace Jovanovich, Inc.: Orlando, Fl.