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Gretchen Richard Reb papers

Identifier: MS2382

Scope and Contents

This collection contains correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs, diaries, poetry, artwork and publications related to the life of Gretchen Richard Reb. The material dates from Circa 1931 - 2018 and includes the biography of Ms. Reb that her daughter wrote and published in 2018 titled Examined Lives


  • 1931 - 2018


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials in this collection may be governed by copyright. For activities that the researcher determines fall under fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. Researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights, determining if the intended re-use falls under fair use, and obtaining approval from the copyright holder if the intended use does not fall under fair use. Please contact Special Collections if the copyright status of the materials you wish to reuse is unclear. Staff will provide additional information.

Biographical / Historical

Born in Dubuque, Iowa, Gretchen Richard (1917-1975) moved to Chicago in 1937 at the age of 20. There she enjoyed the nightlife and worked her way up in the hospitality industry to be hostess at the elegant Camellia House of the Drake Hotel. In 1942 she married Everett Reb. Their daughter Roberta was born in 1943 and, after Everett returned from World War II, their son Richard in 1947. After the birth of each child, Gretchen Richard Reb experienced periods of anxiety and paranoia, brought on in part by her sensing that her husband no longer loved her. On July 17, 1950, Dr; Walter Freeman performed a transorbital lobotomy on her. Subsequent to the lobotomy, Gretchen Reb had periods of psychosis and was institutionalized at the Independence Mental Health Institute in Iowa where the superintendent Max Witte helped her to eventually lead a normal life outside the institution. Transorbital lobotomy as a treatment has been entirely discredited, but throughout his lifetime Dr. Water Freeman performed the procedure thousands of times and often with extremely negative outcomes for patients and their families. After Everett divorced her in 1954, gaining custody of the children, Gretchen lived in Iowa, visited by her children, until her death in 1975.


2 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



This collection contains correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs, artwork, and publications related to the life and especially the 1950 lobotomy of Gretchen Richard Reb. The materials date from 1931-2018.


Organized into three series: Personal papers, Photographs, and Publications

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site, and will require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Roberta Reb Allen, November 1, 2018 (2018.043)


Guide to the Gretchen Richard Reb, 1931-2018
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America