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GRACE

One Story of Thousands

Grace was institutionalized in multiple provincial psychiatric hospitals throughout her life, from Hamilton to St. Thomas, to the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital. She spent the last years of her life at Lakeshore and died in institutional care in 1954.

 

After the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital closed, most of the institutional patient records were destroyed by the Ministry of Health before reaching an archive. Without the records, details of the lives of the people buried in the cemetery are unknown, except for minimal traces of those who spent time in other institutions.

 

Grace: One Story of Thousands amplifies Grace’s voice within the archival records and tells the unique life story of a person buried in the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital Cemetery.

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 GRACE

Grace

Grace was born in Dundas, Ontario in 1875 and grew up with her parents and seven siblings in Galt, Ontario. As Grace grew older, her family had difficulty managing her behaviour.

 

In 1894, a doctor was called to assess Grace and labelled her “insane.” Based on this assessment, she was confined to the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane, the closest hospital to her home. She was 19 years old.

 

Grace protested her new life in the Hamilton Asylum in a letter sent on November 1, 1894. Grace tried to convince her mother, Elizabeth, she had been released even though she did not have the hospital’s permission to return home. The letter is the only direct instance of Grace's voice in the archival records.

 

This initial attempt to go home was unsuccessful, and Grace remained in the psychiatric institutional system for the next 33 years of her life.

Grace's Belongings

This display contained replicas of Gace's belongings when she arrived at the St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospital after 45 years of institutional confinement.

Glasses were often used by patients for reading. Nail files kept physical appearence and scissors could be used for sewing and clothing repair. False teeth were essential for comfortable eating and living. 

Though few, the personal items are an insight into Grace's personal agency through the items she closely treasured. 

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Finding Grace's Voice

We invite you to explore letters from Grace’s case file that reveal instances of Grace’s experience.

Correspondences were sent between Grace's family and Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital officials. The highlighted texts reference Grace's desire to leave the institution, her familial bonds, the activities she enjoyed, and the family situation that prevented Grace from returning home.

Letter 1, from Grace to Elizabeth, Novemeber 1894

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1b

How is Mary and Henry getting along and little Willie my pet getting along

And Whe dident Mrs King and Mr King ask for me tell Mr Shephered that I am come home on M. morning and will he come to the depot to meet me and if he can’t come to him to tell his sister to come and I will be gald to see her. I have no place change my clothes when I’m sick and I would rather be at home anyday and when I do get home I will only get do go out and Sunday School and prayer meeting Tuesday Wednesday and go up to Shephered before I go to pray meeting so I hope you to come to pray meeting every Wednesday night I love you very much and if you come I will keep my word and to what I said I will do what you tell me everyday

Mrs. Armstrong said I had no

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1d

Speak one cross word to me any more so I will do obey you tell me now tell Mr Shephered I would much like to see him a week from Sabbath at school and will be their so he will be surprise to see him and tell Mr King and Mrs King and James and John and Maggie and annie and ada and every one of my friends that I will be glad to see them and least as many at the depot and monday morning and Dear mother will you come on the half past seven o’clock and monday and you will get the loriey I hear why monday morning so this is all I have to say till I come home I will tell you more when I get home so goodby to later.

Letter 2, Elizabeth to Dr. James Russel, November 1894

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Reading the Letters

On the tables are transcriptions of the letters displayed in the gallery. Please follow along as you make your way through the exhibition.

 

Last names, addresses and dates of birth are redacted to maintain privacy.

 

Transcriptions follow the spelling and grammar of the original letters. Some blank spaces are left where words are indiscernible.

 

The highlighted texts reveal pieces of Grace’s experiences preserved in the archival records. More instances of Grace’s voice can be found on a deeper reading of the letters.

1. from Grace to Elizabeth, Novemeber 1894

1a

Galt Nov 1894

Dear Mother

I would like to come home on Monday mother. Will you come for me Monday morning and leave the washing and I will help you when I come tell William when he comes home I would like to see him and am dying to see my dear father and grandmamma and Tommy and Robert and daisy and Oliver Mr Duncan Shephered Miss Shephered and Mr King and Mrs King and James King and John King and Maggie and Annie and ada King and Mrs Gibb and Maggie and edith Janet little Nellie Elice Bessie Will you Please come for me on monday morning and the Doctors said that as soon as you come I can go home with I am all right know the Doctor Russell said

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1c

Mother and no father and I was an orphent and she said I was married to her son and she is going to kill me so you better come home and so you for me as soon after you get the to boys of to work and if you do you can help me to pack of my cloth and I will be gald Will you tell Mary to come to depot to meet me and bring little Willie for I love to see her and I would like to see her him Dear mother I am geeting lonesome to see you but I hope this will be the last letter I have to wright home You don’t need to answer it may for I will be home and monday morning I am I love to come and you won’t have to

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2. Elizabeth to Dr. James Russel, November 1894

2

Galt Nov. 8th, 1894

Dr. Russell,

Dear Sir will you please to let me know how Grace            my daughter is and what you think about her. I had a letter from her to-day stating that you said when I come for her she could go home with me it was hardly worth my while to put her under medical treatment for such a short time. I inform Dr. Wardlaw to tell you all about her I wont answer her letter till I here from you hoping to here from you soon.

                    Yours respectfully,

 

E.           

PS

 

Any thing she needs if you kindly tell me I know I will try + get them I enclose a stamp.

The Lakeshore Grounds Psychiatric Hospital

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