This article is one of an 8-part series about Charlotte Fairbairn, and was written by our patron, John Fairbairn. To read the intro by the editor and see links to the other 7 parts of the story, refer to the Table of Contents page. On to the story—
Beginning at the time of her younger son’s birth and continuing for the rest of her life, Charlotte dealt with the results of an endocrine system chemical imbalance that evidenced itself as long-cycle manic-depressive syndrome. Periodically, she would crash, going into deep despair and depression. In her lifetime, the causes of these cycles were not understood clearly. Therefore, Charlotte underwent treatment as a psychiatric patient, which in those times meant shocking the brain either with electricity or chemical compounds like Thorazine® or insulin. The massive doses of these would leave her in a state of complete cognitive shutdown for many hours. Each depressive cycle required the application of many such treatments per week, in one instance seven months of it.
It is a tribute to her indomitable will that she repeatedly was able not only to survive, but also to fully recover her mental faculties and return to normal life.
Today, most endocrinologists agree that those patients most likely ‘recovered’ in spite of the shock treatment rather than because of it. Many patients (4 – 30%) succumbed to the effects of these severe insults to the physical and nervous systems, or the psychic trauma. It is a tribute to her indomitable will that she repeatedly was able not only to survive, but also to fully recover her mental faculties and return to normal life, resuming her duties as a mother, author, breadwinner, and contributing member of society. However, in 1968, at the age of 56, she again entered a depressive cycle. This time, though, some posterior bleeding from an internal hemorrhoid accompanied the depression. In her depressed state, she became convinced that she had colon cancer. Knowing that she was sliding again toward a need for psychiatric intervention, and believing that it was fruitless since her supposed cancer then was incurable, and perhaps feeling a desire to relieve others of the need to care for her, she quietly took her own life.
At her funeral, her son John was startled to hear a woman at the back of the gathering at the graveside yell out “NOOO! This ain’t fair!” Going quickly to her side, he escorted the weeping and obviously greatly-disturbed woman away from the main group, gently consoling her and trying to understand the source of her deep distress. In broken phrases, she managed to convey the reason.
This woman was the wife of Gunter Bisser, a German immigrant who had segregationist and Klan leanings. He had been involved in a segregationist altercation on Edward and Charlotte’s property, during which he verbally assaulted and insulted both of them.
A year later, Gunter got onto a public brawl and shot a man in cold blood, and was jailed. About three years after his incarceration began, his wife was taken seriously ill. Without any thought about it, Charlotte appeared on the Bisser family’s doorstep with food, medicine, and an attitude of charity. For two weeks she was there at least daily, tending the wife and seeing that the four children had meals, got to school, stayed clean, did homework, and took care of their mother. She also made permanent arrangements with the local St. John’s Episcopal Church to provide food and clothing for the Bisser family for as long as there was a need.
“Miss Chahlotte, she come to us like a angel when I wuz sick, and treated me and the kids so nice, even aftah what Guenter said to her.”
Three weeks after the wife was able to resume caring for her family, Charlotte passed away quite suddenly. Mrs. Bisser came to her funeral, and became quite distraught. “Nooo!” she screamed as the first handfuls of dirt went into the grave. John led her away, talking to her to soothe her. “Bu-bu-but you don’ unnerstan’. Miss Chahlotte, she come to us like a angel when I wuz sick, and treated me and the kids so nice, even aftah what Guenter said to her.” John made the connection. “I nevah got to thank her propah.”
“She knows,” John told her.
Thus ended the life and career of a fine lady, a loving and supportive wife, a gentle and kind neighbor, a talented writer, an imaginative and competent research historian, and a wonderful parent. She left a legacy of lives which she had touched for the better, all over the world. Especially, her life benefited the thousands of women and girls who saw her in uniform in the Park Service, giving them hope that someday all women would not be judged for their sex and excluded, but rather included for what they can do. It also influenced thousands of boys and men to think of their wives and daughters as people, rather than objects or possessions.
She was a woman of liberation in an era long before the thought of attending marches for Women’s Lib and burning of brassieres came into vogue. In testimony, there are millions of women today who now believe that they are every bit as good and worthwhile as any man. Even more encouraging, today there are many men who agree with that concept, and who decry sexist (or any other segregationist) limitations of any sort.
In other words, Charlotte Francis Judd Fairbairn Crouch lived the life of a normal, strong Scottish woman.
At the time of her death, Charlotte had completed the writing for the first volume of her historic novel about Captain John H. Hall, and had finished the outline for the second. It is her son’s life intent to see this work completed and published in her memory.
~ John Lyndon Fairbairn – May 2017 ~
This concludes the Charlotte Fairbairn series called “Regarding Charlotte Francis Judd Fairbairn Crouch“. I just wanted to wrap up with a big THANK YOU to John Fairbairn for writing such an incredible story, and sharing it with us. We look forward to telling Charlotte’s story to any who happen to stop by our website, and to each of our Charlotte Fairbairn Award winners.
Copyright Statement: Charlotte Fairbairn Story