Mary Grace Arthur: Expanding the Measures of Intelligence
Hamline University was where Grace Arthur began a lifetime of assisting others. While she honed her thinking and writing skills as a member of the Browning Literary Society and as an associate editor of Maga, Hamline’s literary magazine, Arthur’s passion was not to be found in the study of literature, but in the poetry of science.
Arthur’s life was centered on making the world a better place for children. She “had many children who belonged to other people,” including those who were developmentally disabled, deaf, learning disabled, troubled, or poor—what others called “problem children.” Arthur, however, never thought of “her children” in that way; rather, she thought of them as valuable people.
After graduating from Hamline with a Bachelor of Science in 1917, Arthur worked as a psychometrist for Hancock School in Saint Paul (now Hamline Elementary) while completing her master’s degree at the University of Minnesota. From 1920 to 1923 she worked as a psychologist at the Chisholm, Minnesota, public schools, and was a fellow in psychology at the University of Minnesota, where she completed her Ph.D. in 1924.
Arthur found her life’s work in revising the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale into what is now known as the “Arthur Point Scale of Performance Tests.” Arthur designed this scale in 1924 to furnish an IQ comparable to that obtained by the Stanford-Binet without relying extensively on verbal directions and responses. This was done to accommodate children who were deaf, who were from different cultural backgrounds, who were non-English-speaking, or who had delayed or defective speech.
She took a special interest in the education of Native American children, who for decades confronted a racist public education system. As a young doctoral graduate, she was called to test Chippewa children on the Red Lake reservation in Minnesota and children at the Haskell Institute (now Haskell Indian Nation University) in Kansas. Using the Arthur Point Scale, she exposed the racism inherent in IQ tests commonly used at the time.
“Until that time,” said a fellow worker, “it was generally accepted that Indians were not the mental equals of other people. Arthur changed all that.” “Her work,” said another associate, “made a great deal of difference in the government’s attitude” toward the education of Native American children.
A pioneer in special education testing, in 1924 Arthur was named the first psychologist for the Amherst H. Wilder Child Guidance Clinic. There she worked extensively with children who had developmental disabilities. She continued her work in 1942 as a consulting psychologist with the Saint Paul public schools and the United States Office of Indian Affairs. In addition to private practice, she was also named supervisor of teaching at Owatonna State School.
“Many who were lost in the lower grades,” said a woman Arthur trained as a tutor, “went on to places like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Some who believed incapable of further training proved to have IQs of better than 150.”
Grace Arthur’s life was filled with facts, figures, data—and children. While her untimely death may have made her a highway statistic, for the children whose lives she impacted, death could never reduce her to a statistic.
Arthur said of her many accolades, “Isn’t it nice that we’re helping children?”
– Kristin Mapel Bloomberg, CLA ’90
*I published a version of this article in 150 Lives that Make a Difference (Hamline University Press, 2005)
“Even Death Cannot Reduce Her to a Statistic,” St. Paul Pioneer Press, May 29, 1967, p. 10.
Alumni Record of Hamline University (1924), p. 112.
Who’s Who in Minnesota (1964), p. 16.
Grace Arthur, A Point Scale of Performance Tests, Revised Form II. Manual for Administering and Scoring the Tests. (1930, rev. 1943)
Grace Arthur, Tutoring as Therapy. (1946).