Leora was the oldest of the ten Goff children. She had two sisters. Georgia Laurayne was four years younger, and Leora was nearly 10 when Ruby Belle was born. She said that Georgia was the only nearly blonde one in the family.
From Leora’s memoirs: “Georgia was hurt by falling downstairs while we lived at Key West [Minnesota]. She was about 9 years old. She went upstairs to ‘make the beds’–spread them up. She got her job finished and, like young ones are apt to do, two beds were just right to hold to each foot of the bed and swing. Georgia did that, as she could remember, and lost her hold some way and fell and bumped her head on the foot of the bed or the floor. Then she sat at the top of the stairsteps and fainted and fell down the stairs.
“Mamma and I were doing things in the kitchen and heard a bump sound on the stair door and then another sound. Mamma said, ‘I wonder what Georgia is throwing downstairs,’ and went to see, and Georgia rolled down unconscious. I rushed to get cold water and cloth while Mamma was putting her on a couch. Georgia ‘came to’ in a little while, but felt kind of sick for awhile. We never got a doctor. She got a bad bump on her forehead.”
The family moved back to Iowa. Georgia and Ruby, as well as their older brothers, weren’t allowed to go to high school. But when their parents eventually moved to a Victorian house in Guthrie Center, the sisters studied piano and took other classes at Des Moines University, although Georgia had “spells” once in a while. According to her older sister, she could attend a lecture and remember nearly the entire thing.
The Goff sisters also worked for the Carl Weeks family, who later built the Des Moines treasured Salisbury House. Georgia accompanied the family to Clear Lake in 1921 to help with their active sons. Later, she gave piano lessons in Guthrie, but she eventually had to give up those lessons, and a beau, when the spells worsened.
Their mother, Laura Goff, thought maybe having a diversion would help Georgia feel better, so her daughters had sister portraits taken in fancy clothing.
At his wit’s end, Sherd Goff took his daughter to Clarinda Mental Hospital, where she was admitted August 22, 1922.
A letter from the Clarinda Treatment Complex states that Georgia Goff was intelligent and obedient to her parents, was a student of music and dramatic art, and also studied “applied psychology by intensive concentration.” The reason for admission: “Over study and nervous breakdown.” Diagnosis: “Manic Depressive Psychosis: Mania.”
Congestion of the brain
She died September 7, 1922. Cause of death: “Exhaustion and acute Mania: Congestion of the brain.” Her funeral was held in the parlor of the Victorian home.
The house was full of mourners because 28-year-old Georgia had taught piano to the children of so many families. She was the first of the family buried in Union Cemetery.
In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell states that early educational reformers were concerned that students could get too much schooling. A study of 1741 cases of insanity by Edward Jarvis, published by the US Commissioner of Education in 1871, concluded that “over-study” was responsible for 205 of the cases. He wrote, “Education lays the foundation of a large portion of the causes of mental disorder.”
Even pioneer of public education Horace Mann believed that “Not infrequently is health itself destroyed by over-stimulating the mind.” Education journals worried about overtaxing students! Was this mindset still common 50 years later?
Do you suppose that Georgia Goff might have suffered from a brain tumor instead?
One comment on Instagram suggested epilepsy. I think that may be the most likely reason for her symptoms.
From: Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots