THE LAST GOOD-BYE.
The day Pauline Moser was brought to the asylum we
heard the most horrible screams, and an Irish girl, only
partly dressed, came staggering like a drunken person up
the hall, yelling, “Hurrah! Three cheers! I have killed
the divil! Lucifer, Lucifer, Lucifer,” and so on, over
and over again. Then she would pull a handful of hair
out, while she exultingly cried, “How I deceived the
divils. They always said God made hell, but he didn’t.”
91Pauline helped the girl to make the place hideous by
singing the most horrible songs. After the Irish girl had
been there an hour or so, Dr. Dent came in, and as he
walked down the hall, Miss Grupe whispered to the demented
girl, “Here is the devil coming, go for him.”
Surprised that she would give a mad woman such instructions,
I fully expected to see the frenzied creature rush
at the doctor. Luckily she did not, but commenced to
repeat her refrain of “Oh, Lucifer.” After the doctor
left, Miss Grupe again tried to excite the woman by saying
the pictured minstrel on the wall was the devil, and
the poor creature began to scream, “You divil, I’ll give
it to you,” so that two nurses had to sit on her to keep
her down. The attendants seemed to find amusement
and pleasure in exciting the violent patients to do their
I always made a point of telling the doctors I was sane
and asking to be released, but the more I endeavored to
assure them of my sanity the more they doubted it.
“What are you doctors here for?” I asked one, whose
name I cannot recall.
“To take care of the patients and test their sanity,” he
“Very well,” I said. “There are sixteen doctors on
this island, and, excepting two, I have never seen them
pay any attention to the patients. How can a doctor
judge a woman’s sanity by merely bidding her good morning
and refusing to hear her pleas for release? Even the
sick ones know it is useless to say anything, for the answer
will be that it is their imagination.” “Try every
test on me,” I have urged others, “and tell me am I
sane or insane? Try my pulse, my heart, my eyes; ask
me to stretch out my arm, to work my fingers, as Dr.
Field did at Bellevue, and then tell me if I am sane.”
They would not heed me, for they thought I raved.
Again I said to one, “You have no right to keep sane
92people here. I am sane, have always been so and I must
insist on a thorough examination or be released. Several
of the women here are also sane. Why can’t they
“They are insane,” was the reply, “and suffering from
After a long talk with Dr. Ingram, he said, “I will transfer
you to a quieter ward.” An hour later Miss Grady
called me into the hall, and, after calling me all the vile
and profane names a woman could ever remember, she
told me that it was a lucky thing for my “hide” that I
was transferred, or else she would pay me for remembering
so well to tell Dr. Ingram everything. “You d—n
hussy, you forget all about yourself, but you never forget
anything to tell the doctor.” After calling Miss Neville,
whom Dr. Ingram also kindly transferred, Miss Grady
took us to the hall above, No. 7.
In hall 7 there are Mrs. Kroener, Miss Fitzpatrick,
Miss Finney, and Miss Hart. I did not see as cruel treatment
as down-stairs, but I heard them make ugly remarks
and threats, twist the fingers and slap the faces of the unruly
patients. The night nurse, Conway I believe her
name is, is very cross. In hall 7, if any of the patients
possessed any modesty, they soon lost it. Every one was
93compelled to undress in the hall before their own door,
and to fold their clothes and leave them there until morning.
I asked to undress in my room, but Miss Conway
told me if she ever caught me at such a trick she would
give me cause not to want to repeat it.
The first doctor I saw here—Dr. Caldwell—chucked
me under the chin, and as I was tired refusing to tell
where my home was, I would only speak to him in Spanish.
Hall 7 looks rather nice to a casual visitor. It is hung
with cheap pictures and has a piano, which is presided
over by Miss Mattie Morgan, who formerly was in a music
store in this city. She has been in the asylum for three
years. Miss Mattie has been training several of the patients
to sing, with some show of success. The artiste of
the hall is Under, pronounced Wanda, a Polish girl. She
is a gifted pianist when she chooses to display her ability.
The most difficult music she reads at a glance, and her
touch and expression are perfect.
On Sunday the quieter patients, whose names have been
handed in by the attendants during the week, are allowed
to go to church. A small Catholic chapel is on the island,
and other services are also held.
A “commissioner” came one day, and made the rounds
with Dr. Dent. In the basement they found half the
nurses gone to dinner, leaving the other half in charge
of us, as was always done. Immediately orders were
given to bring the nurses back to their duties until after
the patients had finished eating. Some of the patients
wanted to speak about their having no salt, but were prevented.
The insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island is a human
rat-trap. It is easy to get in, but once there it is impossible
to get out. I had intended to have myself committed
to the violent wards, the Lodge and Retreat, but
94when I got the testimony of two sane women and could
give it, I decided not to risk my health—and hair—so I
did not get violent.
I had, toward the last, been shut off from all visitors,
and so when the lawyer, Peter A. Hendricks, came and
told me that friends of mine were willing to take charge
of me if I would rather be with them than in the asylum,
I was only too glad to give my consent. I asked him to
send me something to eat immediately on his arrival in
the city, and then I waited anxiously for my release.
It came sooner than I had hoped. I was out “in line”
taking a walk, and had just gotten interested in a poor
woman who had fainted away while the nurses were trying
to compel her to walk. “Good-bye; I am going home,” I
called to Pauline Moser, as she went past with a woman
on either side of her. Sadly I said farewell to all I knew
as I passed them on my way to freedom and life, while they
were left behind to a fate worse than death. “Adios,”
I murmured to the Mexican woman. I kissed my fingers
to her, and so I left my companions of hall 7.
I had looked forward so eagerly to leaving the horrible
place, yet when my release came and I knew that God’s
sunlight was to be free for me again, there was a certain
pain in leaving. For ten days I had been one of them.
Foolishly enough, it seemed intensely selfish to leave
them to their sufferings. I felt a Quixotic desire to help
them by sympathy and presence. But only for a moment.
The bars were down and freedom was sweeter to
me than ever.
Soon I was crossing the river and nearing New York.
Once again I was a free girl after ten days in the mad-house
on Blackwell’s Island.