Walter Freeman, the man who popularized the lobotomy in the United States, taught at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C . and worked in its hospital. When Freeman died the patient records of his some 3,500 transorbital lobotomies, which included those of my mother, along with his publications and private correspondence were donated to the university and ended up in the Special Collections at the Gelman Library. Along with the papers and publications of his associate James Watts, they take up 77.5 linear feet.
On Tuesday, I will be heading to Washington, D.C. to “haunt” him, an appropriate metaphor at this time of Halloween. I and my brother will be donating materials relating to my mother’s lobotomy, many of which were used in writing my memoir Examined Lives, to be part of a collection that has heretofore only given Freeman’s perspective. My mother was lobotomized unnecessarily and ,to my knowledge, hers is the only story of a female patient to be publicly told without Freeman’s lens. All the evidence points to the majority of Freeman’s patients to be female. My mother’s story is a counterweight, albeit a small one, to the 77.5 linear feet. I hope other stories join hers.