Hazel Orme's Troubles - Part 2


Hazel Orme's Troubles (work in progress)

Work in progress images

I just returned from a trip to the east coast. I visited the former Pennsylvania Training School for Idiotic and Feeble-Minded Children in Media, PA. I am grateful for the time and history shared with me. I am learning how common these institutions were in our history across the U.S. I will have many places to visit. (See UVM Study on Eugenics in U.S.)

I am continuing to follow the life of Hazel Orme in 1902 Indianapolis. (Please take a look at my earlier post, “Hazel Orme’s Troubles – Part 1”, for details so far.) I recently completed a painting, Colony for the Poor and Feebleminded, about Hazel Orme and the 1927 U.S. Supreme Court decision Buck v. Bell (274 U.S. 200) which upheld forced sterilization in the United States. I have a new work in progress which expands on Hazel Orme - Hazel Orme’s Troubles. The title comes from a 1902 newspaper article of the same name from The Indianapolis Journal (See newspaper article below). This is a mixed media work on paper with sculptural elements that will be developing. I started this on Veteran’s Day and the initial structure developed into a U.S. flag – the one with 45 stars (Link to some Wikipedia U.S. Flag history). I also have been looking at charts and symbols used to categorize individuals in the eugenics system (See the "Key to Heredity Chart" below). Some of these will end up in the composition.

Before I started researching this area, I generally associated eugenics with the Nazis. I am learning about the large role the United States had in the birth and development of eugenics and its welcome integration into our society. I am looking for parallel cases today. In the early 2000’s, “at least 39 female inmates at California prisons underwent sterilizations in which the women’s ‘informed consent’ was in question.” (See LA Times article). The State Auditor of California issued its report on the sterilizations in 2014 (See CA Auditor Report below). In November 2017, a Tennessee judge was reprimanded for a standing order trading 30 days reduced jail time to inmates in exchange for undergoing vasectomy (men) or 3 yr. birth control implant (women). (See BBC article below).

This piece will be developing. More info and images to come.


Hazel Orme's Troubles - Part 1

 Colony for the Poor and Feebleminded  40 x 60 inches  Mixed media on paper

Colony for the Poor and Feebleminded

40 x 60 inches

Mixed media on paper

Work in progress images

I am drawing about Hazel Orme and related things. Hazel was a 14 yr. old girl in Indianapolis, IN in 1902. Hazel was the subject of a case that year involving her abuse at the hands of the adults that cared for her. See The Indianapolis Journal article below - "Hazel Orme's Troubles" for details on how the trial was reported at the time and the individuals involved. See The Medial and Surgical Monitor article for one expert witness' testimony - Dr. William Fletcher - on the mental state of Hazel Orme. 

The case concluded in 1902 and Hazel returned to her parents home in Indianapolis. Hazel's mother, Belle Orme, died in 1909 from "carbolic acid poisoning, suicide" (as listed on the death certificate). Hazel lived with her father until his death in 1936 based on census records. Hazel's siblings grew up and moved out but Hazel remained. She was listed as a laborer in the meat packing industry in the 1930 US Census. This census entry is the last record I have found on Hazel until her death certificate in 1952. 

Hazel died at the "The Marion County Home" in Indianapolis. Based on some inquiries to the Indiana State Archives - this institution started as the Marion County Poor Farm in 1832 for the poor and the mentally ill. It was located near the village of Julietta. See photo image below. During the trial, Hazel was sometimes portrayed as "feebleminded" as a strategy for the defense. She never married or had children. I suspect that Hazel may have been a patient of one of these institutions at some point in her life. 

I am looking for info on Hazel Orme and other individuals in the same situation. I am encountering many things I did now know - the wide acceptance of eugenics in America, forced sterilization as policy and how it continues into today - Buck v. Bell (1927) to the California women's prison sterilizations in 2006 - 2010 ( Stern, Alexandra. Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America). Along with many other things, I am trying to find out if Hazel Orme was sterilized. I am currently looking for Indiana hospital records from afar with limited success. 

I am finding how the things we did then = today.

Additional Sources

SCOTUS: Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927)

“Hazel Orme's Troubles.” The Indianapolis Journal, 27 Feb. 1902.

Fletcher, Wm. B., "Mental Diseases of Children." The Medical and Surgical Monitor Volume 5 (Jan. - Dec., 1902): 147-149. Print.

Julietta Asylum, Indianapolis, Indiana. Digital image. AsylumProjects.org, Asylum Projects. n.d. Web.

Gross, Terry. “Poet Imagines Life Inside A 1910 Institution That Eugenics Built.” NPR, NPR, 14 Aug. 2017. 

Brown, Molly McCully. The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded: Poems. New York: Persea, 2017. Print. 

Cohen, Adam. Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck. NY, NY: Penguin, 2017. Print. 

Levine, Philippa. Eugenics: A Very Short Introduction. New York, NY: Oxford UP, 2017. Print. 

Stern, Alexandra. Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America. Oakland, CA: U of California, 2016. Print.