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Thelma Hunt papers

 Collection
Identifier: MS0356-UA

Scope and Contents

Materials in this collection include speeches, pamphlets, journals, books, correspondence, articles, photographs, audio tapes, an oral history transcript, and awards. They range in date from 1941-1989.

Dates

  • 1941-1989

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Restrictions on Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical Note

Thelma Hunt (1903-1992) in her long career as a pioneer woman psychologist, had a considerable impact on the discipline of psychology. Her distinguished career in teaching and administering the psychology department at The George Washington University made her a dominant person in shaping the development of the discipline. She had many "firsts," not only as a woman, but as an innovator in test construction and measurement, in emphasizing high standards in personnel psychology in the public sector, and in making psychology accessible and understandable to the general public.

Thelma Hunt was born November 30, 1903 in Aurora, Arkansas. In her early childhood the Hunt family moved to Berwyn Heights, MD, just outside Washington, DC. At age seventeen, as a high school senior she won a George Washington University Board of Trustees Scholarship and entered the University in 1921. In six years she earned an A.B. (1924), with Distinction in Psychology, an M.A. (1925) and a Ph.D. (1927). During four of those years (1923-1927), she combined course work at George Washington, primarily at night, with a full-time job as Research Assistant, U.S. Civil Service Commission.

Upon receiving her Ph.D., Dr. Hunt taught psychology for one year at Middle Tennessee State College. She returned to George Washington University in 1928 as an instructor in psychology. In 1930, she received special permission to pursue a medical degree at George Washington over a five-year period while teaching psychology full-time. She received her M.D. degree in 1935 after completing an internship at Englewood General Hospital, Englewood, New Jersey (DC internships were not available to women). After gaining her license to practice medicine in the District she weighed her career options. She decided to pursue an academic career in psychology after being offered a full professorship in psychology at George Washington University.

In 1938 she was appointed Chair of the Psychology Department, at that time an unusual distinction for a woman. She held this position for twenty-five years (1938-1963). She continued teaching full-time through 1969 when she became Professor Emerita of Psychology. After her retirement she continued teaching one course, Psychological Testing through 1986. Thelma Hunt's career at George Washington University spanned seventy years, fifty-nine of which were teaching psychology.

During her early teaching career, Dr. Hunt strengthened the Psychology Department at George Washington University by establishing training programs in rehabilitation counseling (a grant from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare), in clinical psychology (affiliation with St. Elizabeth Hospital - federal government mental hospital), and in personnel psychology (precursor to industrial and organizational psychology). Hans H. Strupp, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, who was one of Dr. Hunt's many Ph.D. students, stated in a 1984 letter about Dr. Hunt, "By any standards, she did an outstanding job in administering and building the Psychology Department. She was one of the most dedicated and committed teachers I encountered in my career, and she had a lasting influence on many students - both undergraduate and graduate."

Dr. Hunt was a recognized authority on psychological testing and test construction. Her first book, Measurement In Psychology, was published in 1936. This interest in tests began while working at the U.S. Civil Service Commission under Lawrence J. O'Rourke, who also was a teacher of hers at George Washington. She developed some of the new-type multiple choice questions for Civil Service Examinations. Her mentor, Fred A. Moss, the first full-time Chair of the Psychology Department, encouraged her to develop a test of social intelligence for her Ph. D. thesis.

Subsequently, with Moss and K.T. Omwake, three editions of a social intelligence test were made available to the public. These tests were used extensively in screening applicants for positions involving use of social skills in dealing with the public. A revised form is still in use today. With Moss, she developed the first Medical College Admissions Test for the Association of American Medical Colleges, and was research consultant for the Association (1934-1942). She and Moss also developed Aptitude Tests for Medical Professions for the War Department. Early in her career, with the cooperation of local Schools of Nursing in the metropolitan Washington, DC area, she developed a series of nursing aptitude tests, which were utilized as entrance exams by Nursing Schools throughout the nation. She also wrote about physical ability factors in personnel selection and developed strength and agility tests for fire fighters and police officers.

Dr. Hunt conducted the first psychological research evaluating the results of lobotomies done on psychiatric patients. She wrote about "Intelligence," and "Personality Profile Studies" on the lobotomized patients and also reported the findings in Vol. 37, Psychological Bulletin, 1940. Throughout her career, Dr. published many articles about psychological testing. She was an Associate Editor for the Encyclopedia of Psychology (1984), and was author of a section, "Psychological Testing." In 1989, with Clyde J. Lindley, she edited a book, "Testing Older Adults: A Reference Guide to Gero-psychological Assessments," and wrote the first chapter, "Introduction: Historical Perspective and Current Considerations." Dr. Hunt was a pioneer in the applications of psychology to everyday life. With Moss she published "Foundations of Abnormal Psychology," Prentice Hall, 1932, and for "Psychology in Use," edited by J.S. Gray (American Book Co., 1941) she wrote the chapter, "How is Psychology Used in Medicine?"

In 1937, Dr. Hunt became a member of the International Personnel Management Association (IPMA), an organization serving personnel departments, human resource professionals and managers in the public sector. Dr. Hunt served on numerous IPMA committees, gave presentations and keynote speeches at national conferences, edited and published articles in the Association's journal, Public Personnel Management. Through her activities, psychology became better known and respected throughout the U.S. as a discipline that contributes to solving personnel problems. In 1984, IPMA selected her to receive the Warner W. Stockberger Achievement Award (their highest award) for her outstanding contributions for improving public personnel management.

In 1927, Dr. Hunt, with other psychologists, established the Center for Psychological Service to provide clinical and counseling psychological services to the public. Subsequently, she took over the Center as her own responsibility, and expanded the services to include psychological consulting services on management and personnel problems. In this area she was co-director of over 100 projects dealing with assessment activities in the public sector. In 1942 she married Ernest A. Healy, who assisted her, until his death in 1966, in the management of the Center. Dr. Hunt performed psychological evaluations of air traffic controllers and pilots for the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. She was a consultant to the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, having served as expert witness in court hearings (psychological testing) and was a member of the IPMA Advisory Committee on the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures, (1975-1978 and 1982). Dr. Hunt has served as consultant/advisor to many other groups including the D.C. Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, School Guidance Center (model school for emotionally disturbed children in the Greater Washington Area), Columbian Preparatory School and provided volunteer services in psychological evaluation of students attending the Occupational and Training Center of the D.C. Association for Retarded Citizens.

Dr. Hunt was actively involved in the affairs of the American Psychological Association (APA). Her activities with APA began in 1924, when as a senior psychology student, she supervised the registration desk for the 1924 annual meeting in Washington, D.C. She was on the APA Council for six years as a representative of the Conference of State Psychological Associations which she was instrumental in founding in the late 1940s and which was the forerunner of the Division of State Psychological Affairs. Dr. Hunt became the first president of the D.C. Psychological Association. She was also a member of the early APA Ethics Committee, and on the House Committee when APA bought its first home in Washington - an old residential mansion at 16th and O Streets, NW. She was a member of the Psi Chi National Council for a number of years and Historian for the fiftieth anniversary of its founding. She was also a member for five years of the Board of Practical Examiners, American Board of Professional Psychology.

The American Psychological Association honored Dr. Hunt in 1985 by selecting her to participate in their annual program as an Eminent Woman in Psychology. The George Washington University Psychology Department established the Dr. Hunt Graduate Student Lounge in 1989. Dr. Hunt was a trail-blazing psychologist who as a woman made outstanding contributions as a competent administrator of the George Washington University Psychology Department, as an outstanding teacher of psychology, as an expert in psychological testing, and as a pioneer in extending psychological knowledge and services to the community and to public service agencies. Of all her varied activities Dr. Hunt wrote in 1985 in accepting APA's Eminent Woman in Psychology Award, "My teaching career has extended over my entire professional life, with all other things (no matter how important or satisfying) as sidelines...Teaching was my entrée to everything I have accomplished in psychology."

Dr. Hunt died June 23, 1992 in Washington, D.C. An oral history done with Dr. Hunt in 1989 can be found in MS0371, the Oral History Collection.

Extent

1 Linear Feet

Language

English

Abstract

Thelma Hunt (1903-1992) in her long career as a pioneer woman psychologist, had a considerable impact on the discipline of psychology. Her distinguished career in teaching and administering the psychology department at The George Washington University made her a dominant person in shaping the development of the discipline. She had many "firsts," not only as a woman, but as an innovator in test construction and measurement, in emphasizing high standards in personnel psychology in the public sector, and in making psychology accessible and understandable to the general public. Collection include speeches, pamphlets, journals, books, correspondence, articles, photographs, audio tapes, an oral history transcript, and awards. They range in date from 1941-89.

Physical Location

Materials may be stored off-site, and may require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to the University Archives by the Psychology Department in 1995.

Creator

Title
Guide to the Thelma Hunt papers, 1941-1989
Author
University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Date
2006
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

Contact:
2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America