GETTING TO KNOW YOU
Screenwriter Jane Anderson on how she put Hollywood aside to bring justice to a forgotten female painter.
I’ve been living with a profoundly gifted soul for the past 50 years. Even though she died when I was only 3, I got to know her through her paintings, which were hung on the walls of my childhood home. They now hang in my house in the Hollywood Hills, nearly 3,000 miles away from where she first set up her easel on the East Coast almost 100 years ago.
You’ve never heard of Edith Lake Wilkinson. She disappeared in the prime of her artistic life in 1924, at the age of 57 when she was checked into the Sheppard Pratt asylum outside of Baltimore—a lovely, spa-like place that was also Zelda Fitzgerald’s preferred rest stop for mental recuperation. The reason? Edith’s admittance card contained a one-word diagnosis: paranoia. At the time, Edith was still living with her companion, Fannie, on the Upper West Side. They’d been together for more than 20 years, but Fannie was listed on the back of the card as simply “friend.” After Edith was admitted, Fannie passed away.