|Frances Farmer, 1938|
HistoryThe facility was established in Washington Territory as Fort Steilacoom Asylum in 1871, predating statehood by almost 20 years, in former buildings of Fort Steilacoom, which was a U.S. Army post from 1849 to 1868. In 1875, the territorial government took control due to complaints about patient neglect, brutal abuse and poor living conditions. One of its better known patients was Frances Farmer.
The original buildings of the asylum were demolished in 1886 to make way for a larger structure. It was renamed Western Washington Hospital for the Insane and the main ward was completed in 1887. In each of the following decades numerous out-buildings were constructed. In 1915, it was renamed Western State Hospital and grew in various stages.
I dug around some more, curious about who Frances might have been. The story I ran across was so strange, so far-flung and so explosive in its effect on so many people that I had a hard time believing it was all due to one person, no matter how remarkable she might have been.
Books, movies, songs... any number of works have been created dealing either directly or tangentially with Frances and her life.
(I'm putting this after a break so it doesn't eat the front page of the blog.)
Here is where the strange part of her story begins: