This is an online supplement to our Fall 2016 event series, Voices from Central State, which spotlighted the patient perspective on life at Indiana's flagship mental institution, Central State Hospital (1848-1994). Here you'll find some examples of writings by patients that were featured in our public programs.
Anna Agnew, From Under the Cloud (1886)
Anna (Keyt) Agnew (1836-1917) grew up in Moscow, Ohio. She worked as an embroiderer and seamstress. She married David Agnew in 1870. They moved to Seymour, Indiana in 1873 and then to Vincennes in 1875. Anna and David had three sons.
Admitted to the Indiana Hospital for the Insane for “mania” in 1878, she remained there for seven years. In 1886, she published a book about this experience, From Under the Cloud: Or, Personal Reminiscences of Insanity.
Anna and David divorced in 1885 and Anna went to live with her sister in Pittsburgh. Her illness returned and she was admitted to Pennsylvania’s Dixmont Hospital in 1894, where she remained for the rest of her life. She died on March 25, 1917.
For more on Anna Agnew see:
Brian, Kathleen. “The Reclamation of Anna Agnew: Violence, Victimhood, and the Uses of ‘Cure’.” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 5.3 (2011): 279-302.
King, Lucy Jane. From Under the Cloud at Seven Steeples, 1878-1885: The Peculiarly Saddened Life of Anna Agnew at the Indiana Hospital for the Insane. Carmel, IN: Guild Press of Indiana, 2002.
Riah Fagan Cox, "I Remember Jones" (c. 1950)
Riah Fagan Cox (1892-1977) was an English teacher and writer. She was treated at Central State Hospital twice, in the 1940s and 1950s. After one hospitalization, she wrote a short memoir called “I Remember Jones,” recounting her difficult relationship with a hard-nosed nurse. The memoir includes humorous vignettes about the patients in the women’s wards and a chilling depiction of ECT (electro-convulsive therapy).
The portrait on the left was created by Cox's granddaughter, Nanny Vonnegut (monotype, 2015)