1889 - 1973
Place of birth: Ithaca, NY
Date of Willard admission: 1930
Length of stay: 43 years
A Troubled Marriage
Mrs. Ethel #20756 was the daughter of a Methodist minister. As a child growing up in Ithaca, she sang in the choir, played the piano, and was active in church activities. When she was 18, she married a plumber named Seymour, and they soon had two children -- a son in 1909 and a daughter in 1911. Seymour drank too much, flew into violent rages, and had affairs with other women. Ethel suffered two miscarriages, and later bore two more children, both of whom died in infancy.
After she left Seymour, Ethel supported herself as a seamstress. Her suitcase contained examples of her high-quality needlework: a finely hand-sewn quilt, a beautifully embroidered baby gown and intricately worked baby booties. In 1930, she was admitted to Willard. Her file states that "she refused to leave the place where she was living and went to bed saying she was ill ... As she refused to leave the house, the landlady made a petition for her commitment."
43 Years in the Asylum
Once admitted to Willard, Ethel denied having hallucinations, and she seemed to be amused at the notion that some of the patients "heard voices." Notes from her file characterize her as "very social, over-talkative, neat, and well dressed." She sometimes worked part-time in the Willard laundry.
At other times, Ethel was seen as sarcastic and irritable, and refused to work. She often kept to herself, reading and crocheting. Early in her incarceration, her grown children visited her three times, but never returned, even though her daughter-in-law worked at the hospital. In her 43 years at Willard, Mrs. Ethel never received any psychiatric medications. She died at the state hospital on June 12, 1973 at the age of 82. Her brother had her buried in the family plot in Trumansburg.