Virginia Satir (26 June 1916 – 10 September 1988) was an American author and psychotherapist, known especially for her approach to family therapy and her work with Systemic Constellations. She is widely regarded as the "Mother of Family Therapy" Her most well-known books are Conjoint Family Therapy, 1964, Peoplemaking, 1972, and The New Peoplemaking, 1988.
She is also known for creating the Virginia Satir Change Process Model, a psychological model developed through clinical studies. Change management and organizational gurus of the 1990s and 2000s embrace this model to define how change impacts organizations.
Virginia Satir was born 26 June 1916 in Neillsville, Wisconsin, the eldest of five children born to Oscar Alfred Reinnard Pagenkopf and Minnie Happe Pagenkopf. When she was five years old, Satir suffered from appendicitis. Her mother, a devout Christian Scientist, refused to take her to a doctor. By the time Satir's father decided to overrule his wife, the young girl's appendix had ruptured. Doctors were able to save her life, but Satir was forced to stay in the hospital for several months.
A curious child, Satir taught herself to read by age three, and by nine had read all of the books in the library of her small one-room school. When she was five, Satir decided that she would grow up to be "a children's detective on parents." She later explained that "I didn't quite know what I would look for, but I realized a lot went on in families that didn't meet the eye."
In 1929, her mother insisted that the family move from their farm to Milwaukee so that Satir could attend high school. Satir's high school years coincided with the Great Depression, and to help her family she took a part-time job and also attended as many courses as she could so that she could graduate early. In 1932, she received her high school diploma and promptly enrolled in Milwaukee State Teachers College (now University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.) To pay for her education she worked part-time for the Works Projects Administration and for Gimbels Department Store and further supplemented her income by babysitting.