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Mental Health in the 1970s: Kathryn Morrison

Photograph courtesy of womeninwisconsin.org
> Location: Platteville Mss BE; PH Platteville Mss BE; Audio 1657A, Kathryn Morrison Papers, 1974-1990
> Citation: Kathryn Morrison Papers, 1974-1990, Southwest Wisconsin Room, University of Wisconsin Platteville, Platteville, Wisconsin

Collection Summary

This collection is comprised of papers from Wisconsin’s first female Senator, Kathryn Morrison. Senator Morrison was active in a lot of issues but this FFA deals with her work on mental health rights and treatments. The whole collection has 23 boxes, 34 photos, and 7 audio recordings! The materials pertaining to mental health rights, however, are only in boxes 7 and 16. Morrison took notes and did her own research on a range of issues pertaining to mental health. Her notes are in cursive, on the margins, and all over the documents, but don’t worry, all the cursive is easy to read.

Box 7 contains letters from families asking for advice. Box 16 has government documents and rough drafts of edits to documents. They are everything from daily correspondence to proposed amendments. Wisconsin Chapter 51 legislation, the law dealing with mental health rights, is in this box along with all of her edits to it! Government documents have their own language, but again it is also easily understood and, in some documents, there is even a glossary provided!



The boxes in this collection are have a lot of folders, but there’s not a lot of information in each folder. For example, some of the folders only have 3-4 pieces of paper in them. Each folder has a title on it and a file number out of the total number of folders. For instance, in box 7, folder 14, has the title “Mental Health”, and 14/26 written on it as well. All of the folders are removable, so while they should be in numerical order they might be out of place. When taking out the folder you need, make sure that it has the correct title and number on it.


Personal Letters from Families

Box 7 Folder 14
The title of this folder is “Mental Health.” In this folder there are letters which are great examples of the problems that families with mentally ill loved ones faced. To find the letters below look for the dates on the top. All of the letters will have a thin typewriter piece of paper stapled to them, which is Morrison’s response. Make sure to read both.

December 6, 1977: Read the handwritten letter first. It is on a small piece of paper and is in cursive, don’t worry though, it’s easy to read. The letter is from a family in Cuba City, Wisconsin who has a mentally ill person in their family. As you read notice how having a mentally ill person affected them.

February 13, 1978: This one is the longest, but still only 3 pages. As you read look for the interaction between the mentally ill and law enforcement.

April 5, 1978: The letter is on a photocopied piece of paper (this one is in cursive too, but again, easy to read). In this letter the writer talks about the issue of how expensive caring for a mentally ill person can be.

Morrison’s Government Work

Box 7 Folder 14
Find the green pieces of paper. These are typed and deal with nursing homes and the mentally ill. Next, find a lined piece of paper. This is Morrison’s handwritten notes. It is important to read these documents first because they are an intro to the papers in Box 16 and a central issue that Morrison worked on.

Box 16 Folder 5
This folder isn’t that full, but it has a lot of good information in it. The title is “Care of the Mentally Ill, Special Committee.” With these documents date is one way to find the them, but other ways will be listed below.

March 6, 1978: This is the first piece of paper to look for. It has the words “Wisconsin Legislative Assembly Chamber” in blue at the top center. As you read look for Morrison’s beginning interest in mental health.

September 19, 1978: Look for “Monroe Manor” in the top left. These papers deal with nursing homes and funding. Read them to look for possible conflicts between funding and the nursing homes. These documents go along great with the set from November (below).

November 9, 1978: These are the papers that go along with the ones from September 19. Look for a thin typewriter page with the red words “Mentally Ill” in the top right. As you read look for the same conflicts that arose in the September papers. See if you can figure out how Morrison wanted to solve these conflicts.

The New Glarus Home: These are a set of papers dedicated to the nursing home in New Glarus. They give information on a draft of a law pertaining to nursing homes and the mentally ill. During Morrison’s time it was common for the mentally ill to be living in nursing homes along with the elderly. It’s a lot to read, so if you want, just read the first page. That will give you plenty of information. If you read more look for any issues pertaining to the proposed laws.

Government Documents

Box 16 Folder 15

The title of this folder is “Mental Health-Chapter 51 Implementation Committee.” It has a lot of information. If you like sifting through hundreds of pages of government documents than this one is perfect for you! If not, there are two documents to focus on.

January 12, 1977: Next find the papers with “State of Wisconsin/Department of Health and Social Services” on the top. This is the Chapter 51 legislature before the amendments. Look at the key on the first page to help navigate this document. The key is a table of contents as to what’s in the legislation. Morrison dealt a lot with 51.10, 51.20, 51.61, and 51.80 so start with those. As you read this packet also look at the documents from December 1, 1976 to see the changes.

Reviewed by: Tori Holtz


> Location: La Crosse Public Library
> Citation: Physicians for Social Responsibility, 1980-2001. La Crosse Public Library Archives & Local History Department, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Collection Summary

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) is a national organization that formed in 1961. They were organized to provide professional and public education about the medical dangers of nuclear weapons and war. They were concerned about the rising tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The La Crosse chapter of the organization first met on April 28, 1982, and the meeting was attended by only 13 people! Their membership grew however, and they were active for about ten years, until the end of the Cold War. They formally disbanded on April 20, 1995.

As mentioned above, the main goal of PSR was to educate the public on what effect nuclear fallout would have on the world. They wanted to stop the U.S. nuclear arms build-up and persuade Russia to do the same. They also wanted to halt testing and funding of nuclear weapons. They wanted to prevent war with the Soviet Union, and as a result save the world from nuclear destruction. Being doctors, they focused on health issues related to nuclear war. They argued that even one nuclear explosion (in either the U.S. or Russia) would overwhelm the medical resources available. Also, those that didn’t die in the initial explosion would be practically helpless in dealing with health issues brought on by the fallout.

The La Crosse group reached out to Wisconsinites by giving lectures at different events on college campuses, in hospitals, and on TV and radio. They also provided documentary screenings of movies that went into detail about the arms race and its potential damage. The most popular of these, which the group not only showed at events of their own but circulated throughout the state, was called The Last Epidemic: Medical Consequences of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear War. It is a short, 11-minute film which can still be found online. The group also held forums for many public speakers. As the organization grew, so did their message. As a result, not only are the views of the PSR thoroughly represented in this collection, but so are those of everyday citizens. What may be surprising is that, though there were many people who were in agreement with the PSR, there are also examples of those who thought the group were simply Soviet puppets. Ronald Reagan, the president of the United States from 1981-1989, was one of their skeptics!

This is a rather large collection, totaling four boxes, however the focus of this finding aid is on box 1, specifically folders 1-6, 18, and 19. This box contains great information about the group (both the national and local organization), La Crosse’s views on the arms race, and also events going on in the world at this time.


Collection Description

Remember, this finding aid only focuses on only some of the contents of box 1. Folders 7-17 are not included because they mostly include paperwork on the business end of the organization (insurance, finances, etc.), and letters between members of the local and national group. Most of the letters are repeated in an easier-to-read format in the newsletters and newspaper articles that are covered below. Folder 17 details a meeting between PSR member James C. Baumgaertner and Steve Gunderson, a Republican congressman from Wisconsin who served from 1981-1997. The two discussed much of what was going on in the national government during the Reagan Administration about nuclear arms and national defense budgets. While it is an interesting read, it is not covered here.
Take Note: Russia, USSR, and the Soviet Union are all the same country. The collection uses all three labels.


Folder 1

This folder is the best starting point to learn all about the PSR, as it contains much of the general background about the national organization and La Crosse chapter. There are three types of materials in the folder: 1) a pamphlet entitled “Preventing Nuclear War”; 2) handouts; 3) Newspaper clippings from La Crosse, national, and international papers. Read the pamphlet first, since it’s a quick read and offers a lot of important information. Next, read some of the handouts that cover the effects of nuclear war. These make clear the dangers that the PSR were trying to prevent. Last, read some of the newspaper articles. They span from 1980-1987. Three important articles are: “An Appeal to Physicians of the World,” a call to action for all fellow physicians, “Diagnosing Nuclear War,” a more general overview of the rising tensions between the United States and Soviet Union, and “Armageddon,” which lays out the horrible effects of nuclear war on those who were (un)lucky enough to survive.

Folder 2

This is the largest folder in the collection, with about ten years’ worth of newsletters! They detail different topics of discussion from PSR meetings, mainly information about events the group was holding, including film screenings, public talks, and public receptions. If the group was hosting an outside speaker, background information about the speaker is given. The key to finding a specific newsletter is to look at the date, located at the top of the front page. At first, the amount of information may be intimidating, but there is no need to read every single newsletter. There are two main sections that would be the best to focus on in order to get information about the organization and their time period. The first is “Membership Activity” found on the first page of each newsletter. The second is “From the News,” usually found on the second or third page. Pick any year, and read “Membership Activity” and “From the News” for that year (the newsletters were usually published every 2-3 months). These sections will give a sense of both the group’s outreach, and what was happening in the U.S. and Soviet Union.

Folder 3

This folder is a collection of newspaper articles from 1982-83. All of them come from local La Crosse newspapers, yet the focus is not entirely on the PSR. There are articles detailing student rallies, peaceful protests, and editorials about nuclear war from doctors and professors not in the PSR. There is also focus on what is going on in the Soviet Union at the time! Pick two or three articles and read them.

Folder 4

This folder also contains local newspaper clippings, however they are from 1984-85 and mostly letters to the editor. The letters give us an insight as to how local citizens felt about the arms race. Not everyone was in favor of the efforts of the PSR, and this folder provides both sides of this argument. An interesting example of this is a stapled collection of opinions from the La Crosse Tribune in October/November 1985. Unfortunately, the original opinion that started the debate is not included, but there is a back and forth of ideas. Read these to see positive and negative opinions of the group.

Folder 5

This is the last folder that contains primarily newspaper clippings. They range from 1986-1991. There is a greater focus in this folder on what survivors of past nuclear attacks, (including Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Chernobyl) thought about the current conflict. Many articles giving their firsthand accounts of attacks and the aftermath that people had to live through.

Folder 6

This folder has press releases and original letters from members of the PSR to news outlets detailing meeting times and upcoming events. Basically, it is much of the same that can be found in folders 3-5, however in their raw forms, and may be interesting to look at them for this reason. The press releases span from 1982-88.

Folder 18

This folder contains letters and newsletters from the PSR to outside groups, mainly hospitals. They show one way the PSR was trying to educate the public. Pick a couple of these to see how the average La Crosse resident might learn about the hazards of nuclear war. The dates of these letters run from 1982-85.

Folder 19

This folder contains correspondence between the PSR and the State Medical Society of Wisconsin. Here, we can see the names of Wisconsin doctors involved with Physicians for Social Responsibility. We can also see how medical professionals all across the state approached educating the public about the dangers of nuclear radiation. Issues include: the effects of the fallout, the problem with shelters and effective medical personnel (as many doctors would also be wounded or killed), and just pain in general. Pick two or three letters, and if you are lucky you will experience an eye-opening read. The letters make clear exactly why the group felt so strongly about getting ordinary citizens to understand what could potentially happen in the event of a nuclear attack.

Reviewed by: Tyler Wisniewski


> Location: Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin- La Crosse
> Citation: Knowlton, Edgar C., and Wisconsin State Teachers College. World War II: Veterans Experiences in War. 1945-1946. WU108.5. W6, Wisconsin Historical Society. Housed at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Collection Summary

This collection is actually a book. It contains over 50 essays written by veterans involved in World War II. It is a collection of the work done in the English courses of Edgar C. Knowlton, a professor at Wisconsin State Teachers College or modern-day University of Wisconsin- La Crosse. Many of the authors have multiple essays detailing their experiences in the war. Entries contain combat experiences, participation in the army band, factory work in the United States, and rest and relaxation. There is even a discussion of a kind of caste system between officers and their men. The essays were written between 1945 and 1946 and are easily found by title and author in the table of contents. The focus of this Friendly Finding Aid is on the combat experiences of the veterans with an emphasis on the psychological injuries that they sustained during this conflict. It was the topic most frequently written about with approximately 20 entries and references. The Knowlton collection features encounters in both the European and Pacific theatres. They are on sea, land, and in the air because some of the missions involved parachuting out of planes and aerial combat.


Collection Description

All of the essays in this collection are within one book. It is a maroon colored book with the title, “World War II: Veterans Experiences in War”, written on the spine. One reason that there were so many veterans attending UWL after the war was the GI Bill. It was national legislation that gave returning soldiers many different opportunities, including funding to attend school. You can think of the GI Bill as one way that the US government honored veterans for their sacrifices overseas.

Please keep three things in mind as you read these essays:

1. Readers must be aware that the intended audience for these works was only the professor, Dr. Knowlton. The essays were graded, so it is possible that there is information that has been omitted or exaggerated on behalf of scoring higher.
2. As an important note, this collection does not have page numbers! If a quote on page one is referenced, it will be on the first page of that particular essay. Page two occurs on the second, three on the third, and so forth until a new essay begins.
3. This collection contains offensive language, mature themes, and racial slurs as a part of the experience of WWII Veterans. The views within these essays are not those expressed of the creator of the Friendly Finding Aid.

Each description of each essay will note at the end whether the piece is written in cursive, handwritten in print, or typed. Do not fret if you are inexperienced with reading cursive. It does not take very long to become familiar with someone’s writing style. Ask an adult or archivist for help if you find yourself stuck. The essays have been categorized into the European and Pacific theatres.


European Theatre

“Front Line Duty” (Anonymous) This essay describes some American soldiers who are at first eager to see combat but are dismayed as their supply lines are cut off by surrounding German forces. Their prospects look grim as they go three days without food. Read this essay to find out how they survive. (Cursive)

“Paratrooper Delux” (James R. Meyer) This essay describes a pilot and his squad in a glider being shot at by Germans. “When we got ourselves untangled, the Heinies had us “zeroed” and we all were shot at least once getting out of the glider… One fellow said, in a panicky voice, that he had been hit again… I heard Page’s voice say, “Toss me the pilot’s gun, I think that he is dead.” I had been shot through the right arm and back, so I told him, “I’m not dead, Page, but take the damned thing, I can’t use it.”(Page 2) The situation of this writer and his soldiers is quite grim however the existence of his story if true, is proof of his survival. Read the rest of the essay to discover who saves them. (Typed)

“Re-supply” (James R. Meyer) While soldiers fought for different reasons, they were all affected by the horrors of war. Some troops felt terrible seeing their brothers in arms fall in combat, others were desensitized to the violence and felt nothing. Read this essay for a powerful example of how one soldier reacted to combat. (Cursive)

“D Plus Seven” (Ferne Malde) This entry out of the Knowlton collection details the fear of a new weapon that the Germans had developed. It was a rocket, “A bomb with wings and flame spitting from its tail [that] would dive [just] not on military targets but at random, on any person that perchance was in its wake.” (page 1) This essay is a great way to understand the psychological factors of weapons. (Typed)

“My First Day in Combat” (Ted Dusso) After combat for the first time, reality can set in for many soldiers. “We all escaped unscathed and as I sat in my foxhole waiting for the shelling to stop, I thought that combat wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it would be. When, after the next time we were shelled, I found that two of our boys had been killed. I began to think differently. This was not a game anymore, but real war.” (pages 1-2) Read more of this powerful essay. (Cursive)

“The Battle” (Joseph Welland) Soldiers are aboard the USS Brant as their radar picks up signs of a German U-boat (Submarine). Find out how they react. (Typed)

“What’s Troubling You?” (Benjamin B. Walter) This essay gives insight as to the psychological effects of war. A soldier is talking in his sleep and murmuring to himself. His bunkmate asks him about it the next day and responds with a story of a deadly encounter. (Cursive)


Pacific Theatre

“C’Est La Guerre” (Virgil Cullen) This essay describes an assault on a Japanese ammunition dump in which a US artillery soldier gets alarmingly close to the enemy position. The soldier being described in the essay (Stanley R. Richardson) approaches the dump and before he can pull the pin on a grenade, something unexpected happens. (Cursive)

“Captured” (Anonymous) As an American patrol quietly advances on a German position, some soldiers determine they aren’t as fit for war. “Before we even got to the first row of bushes, a shot rang out. One of our boys decided he had had enough and shot himself in the hand.” (page1) As they advance, their company becomes separated and panic ensues. Read this essay to gain a better understanding of how war affects people differently. (Typed)

“Standing-By” (Anonymous) A tense situation escalates as a German U-Boat closes in on an American ship. The American ship is damaged after a direct hit to the engine room. The soldiers prepare to abandon ship but before they can do so, something else happens. (Typed)

“The Trip Back” (Henry J. Lukes) This essay is written from the perspective of a soldier on furlough and enroute home. He discusses his combat experiences in Europe with Mr. Johnson and tells about having to bail out of his plane into enemy territory. Read more to find out how they make it back. (Typed)

“First Taste of Action” (Anonymous) This essay is about soldiers who are met with a surprise attack. One soldier succumbs to the effects of the traumatic experience and is sent back to the Hawaiian Islands. Continue reading to discover how one soldier’s first combat experience was almost his last. (Cursive)

“Baptism” (Richard Frick) This essay takes place in the Pacific Theatre at night off the coast of New Guinea. The soldiers are ambushed by a squad of Japanese planes. The soldier wrote, “It was, as the shrapnel whistled overhead, that I began to be scared rather than excited. It was the fear of death hanging over me that changed things.” (page 2) Read more to learn about the terror of a Japanese ambush. (Typed)

“You Can’t Tell” (Richard Frick) This essay describes an attack on a US ship by Japanese subs. Multiple times, torpedoes narrowly miss the side of the ship. Eventually, the men aboard the US vessel are able to return fire. Read more to discover who ends up sinking. (Typed)

“The First Japanese Plane I Saw Downed” (John Jameson) The soldier being described in this essay boards a ship in February of 1945. Within the first few days, an enemy plane has been sighted and it appears to be going straight for the ship…not slowing down. This student’s essay describes what could have been a kamikaze attack. (Handwritten, print)

“Bennie” (John Jameson) This entry tells a story of an American soldier named Bennie. From the author’s account, it seems as though Bennie was a great guy. The author spends time speaking about his qualities but suddenly there is an attack on their vessel. A Japanese plane divebombs into the side of their ship but something goes wrong and Bennie is missing. (Cursive)


Reviewed by: Brian Allen


Murphy’s Area Research Center (ARC)


Investigation of Cruel and Inhuman Treatment in the La Crosse Co. Insane Asylum

> Location: Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin La Crosse
> CITATION: La Crosse County Clerk, Record of Public Investigation of Charges of Cruel and Inhuman Treatment of Patients and Attendants in the La Crosse County Insane Asylum: Hearing before the Board of Trustees, April 16,1898. Wisconsin Historical Society, La Crosse Series 6. “La Crosse County Clerk Reports and Papers 1852-1945.” Box 4, Folder 9. La Crosse Area Research Center, Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Collection Summary

This entire collection, “La Crosse County Clerk Reports and Papers 1852-1945,”  is made up of 10 boxes.  This review, however, only looks at one of the boxes, and only one of the folders in that box!

Box 4, Folder 9 contains a 118-page booklet. This super interesting booklet has 32 different testimonies about charges of cruel and inhuman treatment of patients and attendants in the La Crosse Co. Insane Asylum. These testimonies were given in 1898 during an investigation.

The testimonies were given in front a Board of Trustees and the Superintendent, Charles McKown. The Trustees and Charles McKown asked the questions. Most of the pages are testimonies from John E. Johnson, Herman Stokes, Albert McKown (brother of Charles), and Charles McKown.  The testimonies in the booklet are typed.

Collection Description

PLEASE NOTE: Charles and Albert were brothers. Charles was the Superintendent and Albert was an attendant. Sometimes Charles asked questions during the testimonies, but other times he was a witness who answered questions.


Box 4, Folder 9

The page numbers listed below do not cover the entire booklet.  If you do, however, decide to read all of it, you’ll find additional short testimonies given by previous asylum workers, people living in West Salem, family members of patients, and nearby farmers who either did or did not witness cruel and inhuman treatment of patients from workers at the asylum.


Pages 1-30

Pages 1-30 include John E. Johnson’s testimony. He worked as an attendant and reported that Albert McKown and Herman Stokes “took the club” to patients that attempted escape, and took them inside a room he called the “strong room,” where patients were punished for long periods of time—sometimes in the cold and without food. This is the longest testimony.


Pages 35-56

Pages 35-56 are the testimony given by Herman Stokes, an attendant who was reported for striking patients. He reported Albert McKown for mistreating the patients as well.


Pages 57-62

Pages 57-62 contain the testimony given by the long-time doctor of the asylum. He contradicted the charges, saying he never witnessed poor treatment of patients.


Pages 69-78

Pages 69-78 include attendant Albert McKown’s testimony. He admitted to violence, though not to the amount reported by others.


Pages 113-118

Pages 113-118 are the testimony given by Superintendent Charles McKown. He admitted to some knowledge of problems, though he does not seem to consider the asylum to be a place of inhuman treatment.


Reviewed by: Jennifer DeRocher