Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday’s child: Jean Alberta McClintock

A child angel stands watch at the grave of Jean Alberta McClintock (b. 1920, d. 1924), “Our Baby.” Is that a rag doll that she is holding? Flowers perhaps?


1920 — 1924

Young Jean’s death certificate identifies her parents, Albert and Edna (Schroeder) McClintock, and her dates of birth and death. It also states a cause of death from a rather uncommon disease, Encephalitis Lethargica, also known as “sleepy sickness” (not sleeping sickness).


An interesting 2004 health article from BBC News states,

Encephalitis Lethargica was a devastating illness that swept the world in the 1920’s. It attacked the brain, leaving victims like living statues, speechless and motionless. During the outbreak, nearly a million died, and millions more were left frozen inside their useless bodies, in institutions.

According to the U.S. Army Medical Department,

The first case of encephalitis lethargica in the United States on which any data are available occurred in the city of New York on September 4, 1918. ... The portal of entry into North America is not known. However, during the latter half of 1918 the disease spread rapidly throughout the United States, and by May, 1919, cases had been reported from 20 States, the largest numbers occurring in Illinois, New York, Louisiana, Virginia, and Ohio. During that time 255 cases were reported.

Did you read Awakenings by Oliver Sacks? That was Encephalitis Lethargica.

Union Cemetery, Franklin County, Ohio


  1. The "Rag Doll" may actually be a bouquet of flowers. Note her other hand is likely dropping petals....a common theme in gravestone art.

  2. Yep, Suzie, I think you're right!


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