A Case of Hysteria

Agnes Richards

Rockhaven Sanitarium was founded in Glendale in 1923 by registered nurse Agnes Richards as a respite for female patients. A former head nurse at Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, Richards was troubled by the comparative lack of mental health resources available to women. Male family members could forcibly admit wives or daughters to an asylum, where they could be preyed upon by staff members or other inmates. At Rockhaven, Richards sought to create a more compassionate and healing atmosphere for those needing treatment. Rather than being confined inside, the “ladies” were free to roam the beautiful grounds. The facility gradually expanded to include patient bungalows, a dining hall, and hospital. Famous residents included Marilyn Monroe’s mother, actress Billie Burke, and Clark Gable’s first wife, Josephine Dillon. The Friends of Rockhaven preserve the now-closed institution’s legacy and offer monthly walking tours of the property.

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