Molly Harrower

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Molly Harrower (born Mary Rachel Harrower; January 25, 1906 – February 20, 1999) was a pioneering clinical psychologist who devised a Rorschach test for group therapy. She published a classic article concerning the psychology of Nazi war criminals as determined by the Rorschach. Harrower developed a scale, based on a set of projective techniques, that effectively predicted which patients would profit from psychoanalytic treatment.


Dr. Harrower was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, the daughter of James Harrower and Ina White. Her father was the head of banks in London, Amsterdam, and Johannesburg, and so her parents were visiting South Africa when she was born.[1] She has a brother named John, who is three years younger.[2] Her maternal grandfather is John Forbes White [1], one of Scotland's foremost art patrons and critics. Forbes wrote articles for the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica on Rembrandt and Diego Velázquez.[3] Her parents, although originally from Scotland, settled in Cheam near London. She and her brother went away for school in England. She attended the Godolphin School in Salisbury.[2]


Training and early career[edit]

After graduating in journalism and psychology from the Bedford College of the University of London in 1928, she worked as an assistant for the Cambridge scholar Charles Kay Ogden. She briefly studied dance and painting in France but was persuaded to continue her education on a fellowship at Smith College, Massachusetts with the theorist Kurt Koffka, a founder of Gestalt theory. Working for Koffka, she obtained her PhD in 1934 at a time when Smith had no PhD program.

Career in research[edit]

She obtained a post-doctoral fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation for 3 years, 6 months with Kurt Goldstein at the Montefiore Hospital in New York and the balance working with Wilder Penfield at the Montreal Neurological Institute. In the latter position, she worked on the psychological effects of the famous electrical brain stimulation research conducted by Penfield. There, she also began work developing a group Rorschach test. She developed her own set of inkblot cards to administer to groups of Canadian military recruits in World War II. Known as the Harrower Blots, the tests were used to help analyze personality traits through a subject's interpretation of a standard series of inkblot designs. She also refined diagnostic tests to measure tolerance for stress. She followed her first husband, neurosurgeon Theodore Erickson, to Madison, Wisconsin, but the two divorced and she moved to New York and undertook a personal analysis.

Career in therapy[edit]

In New York in 1945 she opened what she believed to be “the first full-time practice of psychodiagnostics and consulting, later to include psychotherapy”. After 22 years, her private practice ended in 1966 with the illness of her second husband, businessman Mortimer Lahm. During her time in private practice she did diagnostic work-ups of over 1600 patients and developed a method of poetry therapy using poems to show how poets cope with the experiences that clients find disturbing. Dr. Harrower wrote poetry through much of her life and published several books of poetry. She also consulted widely for groups as diverse as the United States Army and Air Force, the U. S. State Department, the Children’s Court of Manhattan, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Unitarian-Universalist Church. She helped develop a program of certification for practicing psychologists in the State of New York. Concerned with the effectiveness of her work, she combined her science and practice interests in a major study of the effectiveness of predictors of patient improvement with therapy. Upon the death of her second husband, she moved to Gainesville, Florida in 1967 and served on the University of Florida faculty until the age of 70. She died in Orlando on February 20, 1999 at the age of 93.


As sole author[edit]

  • 1946, "Time to squander, time to reap" New Bedford, MA: Reynolds Publishing.
  • 1952, "Appraising Personality"
  • 1958, Personality Change and Development
  • 1962, The Practice of Clinical Psychology
  • 1965, "Psychodiagnostic testing: An empirical approach.", Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
  • 1971 Rev., The Psychologist at Work
  • 1972, "The Therapy of Poetry" Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
  • 1978, "Changing horses in mid-stream: An experimentalist becomes a clinician." In T. S. Krawiec (Ed.), The psychologists: Autobiographies of distinguished living psychologists Vol. 3(pp. 85–104). Brandon, T: Clinical Psychology Publishing.
  • 1983, "Kurt Koffka: an unwitting self-portrait." Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press.
  • 1991, "Inkblots and poems." In C. E. Walker (Ed.) The history of clinical psychology in autobiography Vol. 1 (pp. 125–169). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Joint author[edit]

  • 1987, Harrower, M., Bowers D., The Inside Story: Self-Evaluations Reflecting Basic Rorschach Types
  • 1995, Eric A. Zillmer, Molly Harrower, Barry A. Ritzler, Robert P. Arche , The Quest for the Nazi Personality: A Psychological Investigation of Nazi War Criminals.


  • The Feminist Psychologist, Newsletter of the Society for the Psychology of Women, Division 35 of the American Psychological Association, Volume 26, Number 3, Summer, 1999.

External links[edit]