Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lena Cloos, Part 2

Oh, man. I got Lena's death certificate this past Thursday, and have been taking it in since. Lena Cloos, aka Magdalene Moyer died in DeWitt State Hospital on 5 Nov 1951 in Auburn, CA (Placer County)! I really couldn't believe it, yet prior to getting her death certificate and knowing where she died, I did wonder. I wondered if Lena and Lola being in the same county and possibly city, were aware of this and knew of each other's whereabouts. I wondered if they were in contact with each other. I also wondered if Lena was for some reason at DeWitt, as their both dying in Placer County did strike a chord with me.

So, Lena was at the same state hospital that my grandmother, Lola was and they were there at the same time. I did review the medical records I have for Lola and there was no mention of an aunt anywhere in the files. That doesn't mean a mention wasn't there, but from what I understand, these records get purged over the years and therefore, what I have, has no mention.

Lena was a "resident" at DeWitt (according to her death certificate) for 3 years, 10 months and 19 days prior to her death. Based on that I figure she was admitted around 1947 or 1948 and the physician that signed off on the d/c indicated he had been treating her from 17 Dec 1947 until 6 Nov 1951 (her date of death). Interestingly enough, Lola was transferred from Camarillo State Hospital to DeWitt on 17 Dec 1947.

I wonder if Lena may have been at Camarillo prior to landing at DeWitt. Lena's usual residence was listed as Los Angeles. Or maybe she just somehow landed in Northern California at DeWitt in 1947. Sadly, my hope of an informant that may have been a relative  was shattered. Her informant was the DeWitt State Hospital Clinical Records. They did have good information, so either she provided it upon admission or someone close to her did.

I called the facility that holds DeWitt's records Friday and the person I needed to speak with was off. The records are held in Costa Mesa, CA because DeWitt is closed. It closed in the early 70s. I will have to call again tomorrow to see what my chances are of requesting and obtaining Lena's records. I imagine I may not the closest living relative, yet, I might just be the closest interested relative. I know Lena had children (they are now deceased) and I'll have to research their children.

I really find it rather sad that a few women on my dad's side of the family did die in State Hospitals. My mom always felt that my grandmother was in because of menopause. That is very possible as she did have her ovaries removed at 22 or 23 years of age, which could have started her change early and at a time when the only way "they" knew how to deal with the emotional aspects of that, was to declare them mentally unstable and lock them up. My grandmother did suffer from depression in 1930 (which was documented in her medical records). I can't help but wonder just how many women that were depressed or going through the "dreaded" change, landed in mental hospitals. Locked up and maybe given weird shock treatment and then released. Maybe after that, they were different and then put away forever. Who knows.

The scary thing is that it really wasn't that long ago. The other disturbing thing is that due to the diagnosis of the time, probably many women lost support of their families. How very sad. Mental illness was such a stigma back in the 30s through the 60s (and maybe even through the 90s). And to think that mood swings, depression, or the change of life could have been considered mental illness! Could it be considered that now?

On the art side of life, I have made a bunch of bottle cap magnets and more line art from my prints for screenprinting! I won't share pictures yet as the resin hasn't fully dried on the caps and the screens haven't yet been printed. I also FINALLY got my cut today! It has been so long and my hair was getting really ratty looking. The guy cut it a bit shorter than I wanted, but it will grow and he did a pretty good job. Curly hair isn't something that all stylists are gifted at. I know that from experience!


  1. That "next of kin" thing sure creates a hurdle. I understand the privacy issue, but for family historians, it is frustrating.