My Grandmother Studying Abnormal Behavior, Circa 1953, New York City College

Sixty years ago my grandmother began attending a psychology class at New York City College, studying abnormal behavior. For over half a century she searched in vain for a cure, trying to understand why her daughters had been cursed with mental illness. She left behind thousands of pages of New York City Mental Health booklets, newspaper clippings, and letter drafts to doctors and politicians who she thought might help find a cure. She also left behind hundreds of pages of hand-written notes, reminders for when she visited with her daughters’ therapists.

Today, sixty years later, I am attending a class, studying abnormal behavior, trying to make sense of the heart-wrenching story my grandmother left behind. It’s interesting to note that the first Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders was not published until 1968. As I scratch the surface of psychological knowledge I juxtapose my grandmother’s notes, the terminology and theory she was taught, to today’s nosological classification of mental disorders.

Here are a few pages of her 1953 psychology class notes:

Each Sunday I plan to post information as I move forward in developing this memoir.


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