What did you do, Lizette Moritz?

Every once in a while in my Blackwell’s Island research I come across intriguing little bits like the ones below. (Actually, I come across trillions of them.) The superintendents and wardens on Blackwell’s Island weren’t allowed to fire any employees, they could only suspend them. The decision to fire came from the commissioners of the Department of Charities and Correction who were surprisingly lenient.

Over and over I’d see an employee that had been suspended at the Lunatic Asylum reinstated. The bar of acceptable care was so low, and in order for a superintendent to bother to suspend you, you had to have been incredibly brutal and cruel.

So I was used to seeing orders like this 1868 one to reinstate Lunatic Asylum attendant Lizette Moritz. What I’ve never seen before is this 1870 followup, where they accept her resignation. What on earth could she have done where she could have been compelled to voluntarily resign? My guess is she killed someone, and they couldn’t prove it, but she didn’t know that. So they gave her the choice to resign or go to court. A brief google search didn’t turn up anything.

Blackwell's Island Lunatic Asylum

Blackwell's Island Lunatic Asylum

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

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