The Family and the Clinic

Lawrence J. Friedman

The story of the Menninger Clinic is the story of the Menninger family. The two cannot be separated, according to historian Lawrence Friedman, for one cannot be understood without the other.

Friedman should know. He is the only scholar granted full, unrestricted access to the Menninger archives and the personal papers of founder Karl and Will Menninger. In this study of the Menningers and their clinic, Friedman lifts the public relations veil to reveal the story behind the public success: the reciprocal influence of the family upon the clinic and the clinic upon the family.

“Given the contentious history of the Menningers, Friedman’s account is remarkable for its restrained but candid editorial tone, meticulous documentation, and avoidance of sensationalism. . . . Despite the author’s even-handed treatment of his subject, Menninger was not well received by family members, who blamed the book’s publication for contributing to Karl Menninger's death a few months later.”


“Dr. Friedman must also have something of the lawyer, or at least the politician, in him. His powers of persuasion coaxed this remarkably closed institution into baring its secrets.”

Raleigh News and Observer
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Friedman has taken extraordinary time and care in researching this study. The resulting book is neither expos nor hagiography. Nor is it a narrow institutional history. It is, instead, a finely wrought historical study based upon a decade of research in more than a dozen archives, including the vast Menninger archive.

Menninger is the first study of a major American psychiatric center based on full, unrestricted access to archival materials. It also incorporates information gleaned from extensive interviews with members of the Menninger family as well as interviews with more than one hundred people important in the clinic's history. Not only does Friedman examine the dynamics of the Menninger family close up, but he also steps back for a larger view of the Menningers' role in the history of psychiatry.

About the Author

Lawrence Friedman, emeritus professor of history at Indiana University, is a three-time recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is author of Gregarious Saints: Self and Community in American Abolitionism, Inventors of the Promised Land, and The White Savage: Racial Fantasies in the Postbellum South.