I have a first cousin, Harry Brunius, whose best selling book on forced sterilization and the history of Eugenics was published in 2007. In Better for all the World, Harry dissects the abuses dealt to the mentally ill during this time but I don't think he knew that our own great great grandfather was likely one of the victims.
For weeks, I've been pouring over old family stories and pressing relatives for information but no one seems to acknowledge the absence. In fact, one relative painted a sunny portrait of moving back to Kansas after having had children to be near "mom and dad." I found his grave at a Kansas cemetery where he is buried next to his wife and a few of his children so, at some point, he was reunited with them. But it could have been after he died in the asylum.
Adam Kopp (my great great grandfather) was married to Anna and they had nine children.
Helena, my great grandmother, is pictured on the top right.
The history of the treatment of the mentally ill in America is grim. In addition to the abuse of truly impaired patients, there were countless people (especially women) committed for angering their husbands and getting pregnant while unwed. There are even a few cases on record where women were committed so their husbands could plunder their fortunes. This is chronicled in the historical fiction novel I read last week, What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman. There are two stories, one contemporary and one set in the 1930's, that examine the lives of women deemed mentally ill. Some of it is sugary. Clara, our heroine from the 1930's, is in love with an Italian immigrant and her parents commit her in order to get her away from him. She has his baby while in the asylum and the baby is torn from her arms a few months after its birth. The scenes are rather melodramatic but based in the truth of what many women experienced while committed. After just having stumbled across my own relative's story (what little I know at this point), I was particularly fascinated by the book.