First name:
Mary Cromwell
20th century
Field of expertise:
Social psychiatry
Social work
Place of birth:
Baltimore (Maryland)
* 21.06.1877
† 04.08.1961
Biography print

American pioneer in psychiatric social work.


Mary Cromwell Jarrett (1876-1961) was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Following her graduation from high school in 1900, she taught at schools in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Between 1903 and 1913, she worked for a children’s charity in Boston where she specialized in supporting single mothers, delinquent children, and young offenders on probation. Between 1913 and 1919, she organized and managed the social services at Boston Psychopathic Hospital, the first mental health hospital in the state of Massachusetts, then directed by the reform psychiatrist Elmer Ernest Southard (1876-1920). It was around 1916 that she first used the term “psychiatric social work” in reference to her field of expertise (cf. Jarrett 1918). She organized initiatives for aftercare and the patients’ reintegration into the community, all of which significantly pushed the professionalization of psychiatric social work on the East Coast of the United States (Rubin 2009: 4).


Jarrett developed training courses in psychiatric clinical social work and co-founded Smith College School for Social Work in 1918. Serving as the school’s deputy director over the next five years, she became actively involved in psychosocial rehabilitation programs for traumatized WW1 veterans and published the first textbook in psychiatric social work. This 708-page work, titled Kingdom of Evils (Southard & Jarrett 1922), was based on case histories compiled by Elmer Southard and held descriptions of one hundred typical cases of psychiatric social work, including the socio-therapeutic measures that were taken (e.g., social diagnostics, case work, home visits, aftercare). Richard Cabot (1922: 10) wrote in the introduction: “The book is written in part to illustrate how doctor and social worker can co-operate in the care of the mentally deranged. It also illustrates, I think, how fruitful such cooperation can be, because the doctor, whose long suit is diagnosis, gets the aid of one much stronger than he on treatment, namely, the social worker. After the diagnosis there is often little that the doctor, unaided, can do. The social worker comes to the front just there. Provided she can get a diagnosis and prognosis to start from, she mobilizes for the patient’s good resources altogether out of the doctor’s reach.”


In 1923, Jarrett founded the Psychiatric Social Workers’ Club (which later became the American Association of Psychiatric Social Workers) and started a second career in the public health service. She conducted a study on the psychosocial situation of immigrant girls in New York City (completed in 1925 and published in 1942). A member of the Welfare Council of New York City from 1927 onwards, she initiated and supervised further studies, for instance, on care arrangements for chronically disturbed patients or on home care support provided to elderly patients (assistance in finding accommodation, housekeeping, etc.). In this context, she also developed the first concepts for a community-based provision of services (Jarrett 1931; 1933; 1938; cf. Rubin 2009: 5). Between 1943 and her retirement in 1949, she coordinated surveys and organized conferences (Munger & Jarrett 1947). Despite her ailing health and being confined to a wheelchair, she went on publishing in the fields of social work and public health. Mary Jarrett died on August 4, 1961, in New York City.



Davis, M. M., M. C. Jarrett (1929): A health inventory of New York City. A study of the volume and distribution of health services in the five boroughs. New York: Welfare council of New York City.

Cabot, R. (1922): Introduction. In: E. E. Southard, M. C. Jarrett: The kingdom of evils. New York: Macmillan, pp. 9-12.

Edwards, L. M. (2008): Jarrett, Mary Cromwell. In: T. Mizrahi, L. E. Davis (eds.): Encyclopedia of social work. Vol. 4. Oxford: NASW Press, Oxford University Press, pp. 348.

Grayson, V. S. (1980): Jarrett, Mary Cromwell. In: B. Sicherman, C. H. Green (eds.): Notable American women. The modern period. Cambridge: Belknap, Harvard University Press, pp. 377-379.

Jarrett, M. C. (1914): Function of the social service of the psychopathic hospital, Boston. In: Boston Medical and Surgical Journal 170, pp. 987-993.

Jarrett, M. C. (1917): Possibilities in social service for psychopathic patients. Boston: Massachusetts Society for Mental Hygiene.

Jarrett, M. C. (1918): Psychiatric social work. In: Mental Hygiene 2, pp. 283-290.

Jarrett, M. C. (1918): Shell-shock analogues. Neuroses in civil life having a sudden or critical origin. In: Medicine and Surgery 2, (2), pp. 266-280.

Jarrett, M. C. (1920): Mental hygiene of industry. Report of progress on work undertaken under the Engineering Foundation of New York. In: Mental Hygiene 4, (4), pp. 867-848.

Jarrett, M. C. (1931): The care of the chronic sick in private homes for the aged in and near New York City. New York: Welfare council of New York City.

Jarrett, M. C. (1933): Chronic illness in New York City. Vol. I. The problem of chronic illness. New York: Columbia University Press.

Jarrett, M. C. (1938): Housekeeping service for home care of chronic patients. New York: Work Progress Administration.

Jarrett, M. C. (1940): A survey of the care of the aged of Rochester, New York. New York: Rochester Community Chest.

Jarrett, M. C. (1942): Factors in the mental health of girls of foreign parentage. A study of 210 girls of foreign parentage who received advice and assistance from a social agency, 1919-1922. Washington, D.C.: G.P.O.

Jarrett, M. C. (1946): A method of determining the number of medical social workers needed for case work in a general hospital. Report of a study at Bellevue Hospital. New York: Social Service Div.

Munger, C. W., M. C. Jarrett (1947): The care of chronic disease in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Pittsburgh: Federation of Social Agencies of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County Health Division.

Rubin, D. B. (2009): From private demons to public problems. The work of Mary Cromwell Jarrett. In: Affilia – Journal of Women and Social Work 24, (4), pp. 417-423.

Southard, E. E., M. C. Jarrett (1922): The kingdom of evils. Psychiatric social work presented in one hundred case histories together with a classification of social divisions of evil. New York: Macmillan.


Burkhart Brückner, Robin Pape


Referencing format
Burkhart Brückner, Robin Pape (2015): Jarrett, Mary Cromwell.
In: Biographisches Archiv der Psychiatrie.
(retrieved on:24.05.2024)