Dorothy’s Story

I was born in the Fairbault State Hospital. I left Fairbault when I was a teenager and then I was […]

I was born in the Fairbault State Hospital. I left Fairbault when I was a teenager and then I was moved around from place to place living in the Minnesota State Hospital system until the age of about 29.

I started working folding laundry about the age of 16 while I was still in Fairbault. I didn’t earn any money for doing that job. It was just one of my chores. I also set the table for meals and washed the dishes every day. I don’t remember having anyone that really took care of me — not a special person that I could go to. I had to learn things on my own.

I eventually moved out of the state hospital system and lived with a family for a few years until I moved into a group home.I was very scared to leave the state hospital because it was all I knew. I didn’t know what it was like to be a part of a family. When I was growing up in the state hospital, I don’t remember having any toys to play with. The clothes I wore I shared with other people.

There were no blankets to keep us warm. It was cold in the dorm that I shared with many other children. We just had to snuggle up and try to keep warm with a sheet over us. Some of the kids got bed sores from laying in their beds all day.

Later on, as a teenager, I was moved into a room that I shared with 3 other girls my age.

We slept on mattresses on the floor without pillows and often slept in our clothes.

The food we ate was all right but if we didn’t finish it they would just warm it up for the next meal. There was nothing to do but sit and watch TV or sit on the floor alongside others with nothing to do making the days endless and boring.

When I got to be an adult, I took care of the babies and cleaned rooms. I earned about $1.00 a day and would spend my money at the canteen for treats or things that I needed like shampoo, toothpaste or deodorant.

It was nice to get out of my cottage and go to a job in some other building on the grounds. At least I got to meet new people and the nurses in the baby ward were usually very nice to me. I liked feeding the babies the best.

I have come a long way since living in state hospitals.We have all come a long way since those days.

I’m happy to say that I work at a job that I love taking care of animals.

I live in a house with 3 other ladies that I have a good time with; although, that’s not always easy. I’d rather just live with 1 other person. I go out shopping, out to eat and to movies. I have gone on several vacations to places like Disney World, Nashville, Black Hills. I’ve been to a lot of places and have enjoyed traveling and the opportunity to see the country. I feel that I’m a respected and valuable member of my community.

Through my People First group, I have participated in several community service projects and am learning to be an advocate for myself and others with disabilities. I enjoy my life.

Seeing the new gravestone markers that have been put in the cemetery made me think of the years I lived in Fairbault State Hospital. Those were years that I remember with mixed feelings — sometimes it was bad and sometimes it was o.k. I wouldn’t want to go back. I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to grow up in a state hospital like I did.

I am glad that the people who lived and died in Minnesota’s State Hospitals will now be remembered by name and should not be forgotten.