Lost in Laconia

In 1903, 58 children living in almshouses throughout New Hampshire were admitted to an asylum. They were considered a danger to society and sentenced to a life of isolation and total segregation. This was during a time when certain individuals and entire families were stigmatised as “feebleminded”. Over the course of the next ninety years, this institution served to segregate the children and adults who were rejected by family, friends and the community.  (Intro to the documentary)

Trigger warning for a photograph I included, of ‘patients’ in execrable conditions. I haven’t written much about the horrors endured at the school, but there is a link to further history and info right at the bottom. Actually, if you’re not in good shape today, please don’t read this.


It started out as the New Hampshire School for the Feebleminded, and was later renamed the Laconia State School. This 2009 documentary shocked me rigid and perhaps callously, not primarily because of the appalling abuses, but for the 88 year timeline. It’s a complex and detailed analysis, unlike many other such documentaries, which tend to simply recount the horrors, then imply a sort of Renaissance of healthcare and thought, followed by the closure of the institution, causing patients to find themselves, shocked and bewildered and back in what is always termed ‘the real world’, when it could be far more accurately defined as freedom.

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