Mar. 5th, 2017
Adelaide V. Hall was an inmate at The Saint Elizabeth Psychiatric hospital, Washington in 1918. There is only one piece of her work - this tiny piece of croche'd wool had all her miserable life woven into it, and having externalised her troubles she was content not to say anymore. Adelaide and her eight siblings were raised by their violent alcoholic father after the death of their mother. Adelaide shared a bed with several of her brothers and with her father. Adelaide's claims of wretched and continuous sexual abuse was dismissed by her doctors as incest fantasies. She was hospitalised at least twice due to depression, 'melancholia, and so called delusions'. When Adelaide was 13 years old, she went to live with her sister. She fell in love with her older brother and further complicated her life. The love affair was not allowed to continue and they were swiftly separated. She went on to lead a promiscuous adult life and had several affairs with married men where she eventually contracted syphilis. Although she never made anymore pieces of her art, she did make a lot of baby clothes for the children she never had. The croched piece is less than 10 inches square, it contains all the major players in her life and she depicts them according to their importance. Her father is the largest with prominent genitalia, with washers and beads woven in. Various siblings and her mother are featured, identified by a complex system of numbers and letters. This tiny work tells a story of her miserable, sordid life. Adelaide was a victim of her circumstance and of her time. Her 'stories' were never believed, and she was never able to receive the help she so badly needed. Without this little scrap of wool, Adelaide would have remained an anonymous patient existing only in the dusty records of St Elizabeth's hospital.