1892 - 1973
Place of birth: Edinburgh, Scotland
Date of Willard admission: 1941
Length of stay: 32 years
"Misfortune after Misfortune"
Miss Margaret #25682, according to her aunt, was "a bright and happy girl who suffered misfortune after misfortune." Her father, a merchant seaman, died of tuberculosis when she was 7 years old, and her mother soon remarried. Three years later, authorities accused her mother of neglecting Margaret and her sister Marie, and placed the girls in an orphanage. At age 20, Margaret entered nurse's training at London's North East Metropolitan Hospital. After completing her studies, she worked there from 1914-1918, witnessing the damage suffered by the hospital during World War I German bombing raids. Her fiancé was killed in France within weeks of going to the front.
She immigrated to the United States in 1921and enrolled in graduate nursing study at Women's Hospital in New York City. While training, Margaret sustained a serious head injury; her recuperation took months. She worked at Women's Hospital until July 1925, when she contracted tuberculosis, and spent much of the next six years in TB facilities. There she met a fellow patient, Arthur Dargavell, who became a close friend. It's not clear whether their relationship was romantic, but Margaret's will, found in one of her trunks, lists Mr. Dargavell as her sole heir.
Upon her rehabilitation, she could only find employment in TB hospitals, working in several such places across New York State. Miss Margaret suffered from numerous physical ailments during those years, and also faced stress at work and in her personal life. Despite her history of illness and loss, she lived a full and often happy life during these years. She had a close circle of friends, traveled extensively, owned her own car, and made a good living. But after losing her long-term doctor and confidant, her employers sent her to a new doctor who felt her physical complaints were overshadowed by emotional problems. He had her brought to Willard on June 28, 1941. She took along all her earthly possessions, packed into 18 suitcases, boxes and trunks.
A Fly in a Spider Web
Margaret was 48 when she was committed to Willard. At her admission interview, she referred to herself as a "fly in a spider web," and agreed to stay only until a better place could be found for her. But that never happened. Two of Margaret's devoted women friends, along with Arthur Dargavell, visited and wrote to her during her first 10 years of institutionalization.
During her 32 years at Willard, Miss Margaret received no psychotherapy, but instead was given heavy doses of the tranquilizer Thorazine. According to the records, she spent her time knitting, crocheting and reading. Diagnosed with arteriosclerosis and other serious medical conditions, she was sent to the medical/surgical unit at Willard in 1970, and remained there until her death on August 17, 1973. Her grave is nearby at the Ovid Union Cemetery.