Woman of the Century/Clarissa Caldwell Lathrop
LATHROP, Miss Clarissa Caldwell, reformer, was born in Rochester, N. Y., and died in Saratoga, N. Y., nth September, 1892. She was a daughter of the late Gen. William E. Lathrop, a Brigadier General of the National Guard. CLARISSA CALDWELL LATHROP. Soon after her graduation from the Rochester academy she became a teacher, which, owing to her father's failure in business, became a means of support to her family as well as to herself. She continued to teach successfully until her unlawful imprisonment in the Utica insane asylum. Her strange experience was the consummation of the scheme of a secret enemy to put her out of existence by a poison, pronounced by medical authority to be aconite, when her life was saved on two occasions by the care of two friends, he took some tea to a chemist for analysis, as she was desirous of obtaining reliable proof before making open charges against any one, and at the instigation of a doctor who was in sympathy with the plot to kidnap her, she went to Utica to consult Dr. Grey. Instead of seeing Dr. Grey upon her arrival, she was incarcerated with the insane, without the commitment papers required by law, and kept a close prisoner for twenty-six months. At last she managed to communicate with James B. Silkman, a New York lawyer, who had been forcibly carried off and imprisoned in the same insane asylum. He obtained a writ of habeas corpus at once, and in December, 1882, Judge Barnard of the Supreme Court pronounced her sane and unlawfully incarcerated, immediately upon her restoration to freedom she went before the legislature, and stated her experience and the necessity for reform in that direction. After making another fruitless effort the succeeding year, she found herself homeless and penniless, and dependent upon a cousin's generosity for shelter and support, and was forced to begin life anew under the most disheartening circumstances. She collected money for a charitable society on a commission, spending her evenings in studying stenography and type writing, alter a hard day's toil. She soon started a business of her own and was successful as a court stenographer. Ten years after her release she wrote her book, "A Secret Institution," which is a history of her own life, written in the style of a novel, and descriptive of the horrors she had known, or witnessed, while an inmate of the Utica asylum. The interest her book created led to the formation of the Lunacy Law Reform League in 1889, a national organization having its headquarters in New York City, of which she was secretary and national organizer.