Mother of My Invention:

A Motherless Daughter Memoir


Barbara Jean Bloom Henke, c. 1952
Letter written two days before Mother’s death.

My mother spent the first 13 years of my life institutionalized in a Louisiana psychiatric hospital. That no one in the family would speak of her convinced me it was shameful to ask questions and that fears of inheriting my mother’s illness were justified.

Long after my mother’s death, and after the deaths of everyone who’d known her before, I obtained hospital records, detailing everyday interactions and psychiatric treatments of the 1950s. These documents and a handful of photos and mementos brought to life the woman I could only imagine in theory. At the same time, I discovered my true inheritance was the contributions of people and experiences that had enriched my life. Mother of My Invention explores the unique challenges faced by motherless daughters and suggests that mothers can sometimes be found in unexpected places, if we’re open to finding them. 

Admission Notes, Southeast Louisiana State Hospital
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