Friday, October 30, 2015

Dr. Freda Dunnam Testifies Via Closed Circuit Television


This photo was originally used in 1980 by the Detroit Free Press when Dr. Dunnam testified in a court hearing via closed circuit television. The former Eloise physician and psychiatrist was the first person to do so in the state of Michigan.

Dunnam was married to another Eloise alumni Dr. William Missavage, who provided much guidance for Steve Luxenberg in his writing of Annie's Ghost, the story of Luxenberg's aunt who spent 31 years in the asylum.

Considering the notes from historicalimages.com for the photo, it may have well been used for her obituary as well. They are as follows:

Dr. Freda Dunnam, the first to testify by closed circuit in the program, said I think it's great.. 

Additional Information: Whether she was sewing colorful kids' clothes, completing the weekend crossword puzzle, listening to Dixieland jazz, or playing with her collection of wind-up toys, Freda Dunnam Missavage always found enjoyment in her family and her work. 

Although a vehement nonsmoker, she passed away on October 17 due to complications from bronchoalveolar lung cancer, diagnosed November 1998. She was 74. 

The youngest of Maude and Coleman Dunnam's five children, she was born August 24, 1925 in Franklinton, LA. She graduated from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and LSU medical school in New Orleans in 1949. 

Dr. Dunnam began her professional career as a psychiatric resident at Wayne County General Hospital in 1950, where she met and married a fellow psychiatrist, Edward Missavage Jr. (He proposed by asking, "What's your blood type?") At the time she was one of three female physicians at the Eloise facility. She completed her residency at Pontiac State Hospital, leaving to follow her husband to his Army station in France in 1953. Upon their return to the US she stayed home to raise her family. 

She often joked, "I spent seventeen years watching 'Captain Kangaroo'." Dr. Dunnam resumed her career at PSH (then called Clinton Valley Center) following the death of her youngest child. She loved her work with the acute admission ward and was devoted to her patients, and the supportive staff. She retired from CVC on a medical disability in 1986, and with her husband enjoyed some traveling, concerts, opera, and collecting art glass at antique shows. 

The Dunnams were a family of home sewers; her father rented and sold sewing machines, and her seamstress mother made and sold dresses to residents of Bogalusa and Baton Rouge. Dr. Dunnam continued this tradition; she took great pleasure in creating wardrobes for herself and her family, including three generations of costumes for Halloween, Mardi Gras, and historical reenactments. 

On visits to her beloved Hawaii, she bought local fabric and made shirts for her husband. Other big projects included family wedding dresses, clothes for friends and other relatives, and draperies and reupholstering projects. 

A subtle feminist who raised three feminist daughters, Dr. Dunnam came up with a unique approach to ballot selection several elections ago. "I went through the list and voted for anyone with a woman's name. They can't do any worse than the bunch of men we've got running things," she explained.

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