Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society

Students, as part of an advanced seminar, examined and wrote about the lives of these women, their intellectual contributions, and the unique impact and special problems that being female had on their careers.

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Dr. Grace Helen Kent (1875-1973)

(Clinical Psychologist)

by Eric W. Codak

Younger Years

Grace Kent was born on June 6, 1875 in Michigan City, Indiana, but grew up most of her life in Iowa , until her move to Harvard in 1904. She was born to a minister who followed in the steps of three generations of clergymen. Kent's father being quite liberal, was one of the earliest white pastors for a Negro church (in Atlanta) and is the pastorate founder of the Union Church in Sterling, Massachusetts (Shakow 279).

Education; Early Accomplished Works

After attending high school, Kent applied at Grinnell College and attended for two years. She later transferred to University of Iowa and received her bachelor's degree in 1902.

Her graduate work started right after receiving her degree, still attending the University of Iowa. In August, 1904, she received her master's degree under Carl Seashore. Her thesis, "Periodicity and Progressive Change in Continuous Mental Work," which was published in association with him in the Monograph Supplements of the Psychological Review (Shakow 275).

In 1905, Kent moved to the East coast to work on graduate work with Hugo Munsterberg at Harvard for about two years.

Kent worked more on associationism at Kings Park (New York) State Hospital on Long Island resulting in the famous Kent-Rosanoff Association Test in conjunction with Dr. A. J. Rosanoff in 1910.

She later worked at the Government Hospital for the Insane under Dr. Shepard Ivory Franz while attending George Washington University.

In 1911, Kent received her Ph.D. at George Washington University in Psychology, her doctoral dissertation was entitled, "Experiments on Habit Formation in Dementia Praecox".

She went on to work at various hospitals and State mental institutions: (1911-12) Warren (Pennsylvania) State Hospital, (1918) Foxboro State Hospital in Massachusetts, (1920-22) worked with retarded patients at State Training School in Clinton, South Carolina, (1922-26) inaugurated the first Psychology department in State hospitals and worked as Psychologist at Worcester (Massachusetts) State Hospital.

Kent-Rosanoff Free Association Test

Kent worked on studying association at Kings Park (New York) State Hospital on Long Island, resulting in the famous Kent-Rosanoff Free Association Test. Although Dr. Rosanoff was the co-author with her of the published monograph, he apparently contributed little to the actual study (Shakow 275). It was a Psychiatric screening instrument that was one of the first to have objective scoring and objective norms (Zusne 224). A patient's associative response were compared with the frequency tables prepared on a norm group of one thousand individuals (Zusne 224). The test was not used after finding that a persons associative response had other factor's involved such as socioeconomic status, age, education.

Kent at Danvers State Hospital

In 1928, she took on what was to be her major position by joining the staff of the Danvers (Massachusetts) State Hospital as Psychologist under Dr. Bonner (Shakow 276). She stayed there until 1946, after establishing a successful psychology department. The responsibilities she set up in the department primarily took care of all the psychometric work, such as the preparation of case studies, writing of clinical papers and the training of different teaching groups consisting mostly of nurses.


Kent at the age of 71 set up experimental residence in a home for retired professional people. This plan fell through due to her reluctant take up of a part-time professorship teaching clinical psychology offered by the University of Miami. in 1946.

Kent finally entered a retirement home at 73 years old, but soon found it unproductive and left the retirement home to take up residence in Vermont at the Waterbury State Hospital as Psychologist. Kent eventually retired in Arlington, Vermont. Soon moving again after '68 election voting against Richard Nixon. She later moved to Friends House in Sandy Springs Retirement Home and lived there until her death. Grace Helen Kent died September 18, 1973, unmarried never having children.


Bibliography of Works by Grace Helen Kent as written by David Shakow in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences (1974)


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