The Margaret Sanger Papers

Kent, Kathleen Whiting (1891 - ? )

Socialist activist. Married Rockwell Kent, (1909; divorced 1926), five children. Raised on a farm in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, Kathleen Whiting, a shy but talented amateur pianist, met artist Rockwell Kent when she was 17; they married a year later. After a year in Pittsfield, in which the new Socialist Party convert brought his bride to local Party meetings, the Kents moved to Monhegan Island in Maine. Short on funds, the couple briefly moved in with J.G. and Rose Pastor Stokes, whom they had met at a Socialist Party meeting in Pittsfield, before returning to Monhegan. In 1910, Kathleen Kent moved with her husband and son to Newfoundland where Kent and writer and literary scholar Bayard Boyeson planned to open a communal art school and then to rural New Hampshire. The marriage, however, was under constant strain, particularly after Kathleen Kent discovered her husband was having an affair with another woman by whom he had a child. This was an early indication that Rockwell Kent wanted to pursue a life of adventure and freedom, not settled domesticity. The Kents decided to remain together and in 1911 moved with their growing family to New York's Greenwich Village. There they spent much time with other radical writers, artists and activists including Stuart Davis, Floyd Dell, John Sloan, Robert Pearmain and Margaret Sanger, but Kathleen Kent found these years difficult. Short of funds and often left alone to care for her children while her husband travelled to find work and inspiration for his art, she was also aware of his many extramarital affairs. Yet both remained committed to the marriage and to their children. Kathleen Kent again joined her husband when he returned to Newfoundland in 1913, and in 1915, when the government asked Kent to leave, she and the family relocated to New London, Connecticut. By 1918, however, when Rockwell Kent asked Kathleen to accompany him to Alaska, she refused. Kent went without her, but after Kathleen repeatedly asked him to return, he finally gave in and 1919 the Kents moved to a farm in Vermont. However, her husband's repeated absences and betrayals finally took their toll on Kathleen, while Rockwell Kent increasingly resented the burdens of his domestic arrangements. In 1923, when Rockwell Kent convinced his wife and children to go to France, the marriage was, in effect, over. In 1926 the couple were divorced and Kathleen Kent moved with her children to Stockbridge, Mass.
References: Daniel Traxel, An American Saga: The Life and Times of Rockwell Kent (1980).