My father was very involved in business and very conservative in that sense, but as a child he never seemed very conservative to me. As you know, I was the favorite of his and I was the only girl, and there was so much sexual feeling on his part towards me that he seemed wild and irresponsible, more than conservative, to me. So that is just a difference in the point of view between one child and another. He may have seemed very conservative to Paul. I know he was a great defender of capitalist business practices, and when we were older and very interested in a left wing or communist view of things he seemed conservative.
I don't know exactly how that would have affected Paul. I know he identified with Mother very much more strongly than he identified with Father. So her interest in politics and in doing good in the world and all that type of conversation and point of view, I think that affected Paul profoundly. And I think it gave him a lot of interest in political process which he had all his life. Paul had two brothers, a twin named and an older brother named Richard. How did having an older, and according to your account somewhat domineering, brother affect Paul? I don't think Richard was domineering. I think he was sarcastic and made fun of Paul. In the autobiographical piece that I wrote for the called he was making fun of Paul. I think Paul was very vulnerable to anybody older taking him down in any way. You know, Paul thought of himself as completely grown and the intellectual equal of anybody around, always. In fact, he was. And so he was particularly susceptible to that kind of older brother sarcastic teasing. It affected him very negatively and very badly. Did Paul's father prefer his older brother to him in any way? No, I don't think our father preferred any of the boys actually. I think he just had a hard time with bringing up boys, found them very objectionable and very difficult, and he preferred me. I was the one preferred by my father. My mother preferred Richard. I have a feeling that mother and Richard, even now up in heaven somewhere, are the ones that are truly compatible with each other — my mother and Richard more than anybody else in our family group. Did Richard have any homosexual tendencies or experiences? I don't really know but I imagine that he did because there was a professor that he went to see and stayed overnight with, when I was an early adolescent, I guess. My mother had a fit about it because he had stayed out all night and not told her where he was. There was an extra layer of fear and negativity about it because of this older man who was a professor at, I think, Northwestern University, and had kind of a reputation as a homosexual. I always thought that was probably Richard's first affair. I don't know that in any other way, except just hearing rumors around the family circle.
Richard was very attached to a high school botany teacher named Kelly something, or something Kelly. He spent a lot of time with him, and I think that encouraged Richard to go into botany as a field. He had a Ph.D. in botany in later years, gained in graduate school. Mr. Kelly came up and visited us at Neebish in the summertime with Richard and spent several weeks there. And they went on a trip by themselves around St. Joseph's Island. It was a three or four day camping trip and they took the boat, and there was a feeling between them as though they might be lovers when I was with them at that time. I don't think anybody talked about it at all but I just had that feeling.
The only thing I really remember about the camping trip was that when they came home, they didn't have any of the maps left that they had taken to navigate around in this unknown body of water. They told about how they had covered the maps with tarpaulins and left them flat on the rocks when they made camp one night, and the fire that they had made crept along the crevices in the rocks and burned up the maps, the tarpaulin and the whole thing while they were sleeping. And the ashes were in the perfect shape of the maps and the tarpaulin when they awoke in the morning. The ash had not been disturbed in the slightest. That's all I remember about their camping trip. But I sort of assumed that Richard and Kelly were sleeping together at that time. How did having a twin brother affect Paul? Well, it affected him his whole life. A twin brother is a very close thing, and I'm sure that they complemented each other. If one did one thing the other did something else. They became sort of at least outwardly one person, so whatever capabilities one had, the other had complementary abilities, and so on. They spent a great deal of time together. I know I envied them a great deal. I wanted to be part of that twin-ship. It seemed to me a much better way to be than to be isolated and alone and the only female and, oh, a whole bunch of other things that I didn't like about my position in the family. I envied them their position in the family. Did Paul tend to be more ambitious than Walter? Oh yes, I think he always was more ambitious. I think Walter was perfectly ambitious but in a much milder way and in a much more gentle way. But I think Walter was probably more tuned in to other people as a youngster than Paul was. Paul was so anxious to be an adult that he really didn't pay much attention to the people that were in his own age group or his own status.
Paul was much more ambitious than anybody else in the family. But he was very adult about it. Of course, to me, he seemed like the intellectually perfect person, the be-all and end-all of intellectual activity. I thought he was right about everything and I thought he was strong about everything and I thought he knew everything. Did Walter's accident when he was in a coma seem to slow him down or impair him in any way? I remember when Walter had a bad automobile accident. I don't remember about the coma part, but I do think that after that he was very subdued. And, of course, he was very much taken down by the nature of the accident. He was in a speeding car and he was out with a bunch of other kids. They were acting up a good deal and maybe drinking, I don't remember that part. It was thought of in the family as a very sinful experience. After he recovered he went out West on a camping trip with some teachers from Oak Park High School, and there he did have some kind of brain difficulty. I don't think he had completely recovered from the accident where his head was injured. There were some blows to his head.
Anyway, on this camping trip, he fainted or passed out or something while they were climbing a mountain and had to be taken down the mountain and taken to a hospital. Then he recovered enough to go to a nurse's home in that little town. That was Buffalo, Wyoming. My mother was very upset and worried a lot about him during that period and called him up on the telephone a lot. I don't think she actually went out there but I think she wanted to. But we were up at the cottage with the rest of the family and she was needed there and she was very upset. That may have been when Walter was in a coma. I never actually heard that he was.
But of all the things like this that you heard from Paul, I'm sure you have the true version. What I have is just what I remember and I was frequently not fully informed. I was frequently a bystander. Did Paul get along with his classmates and his teachers? He had some friends in high school. Johnny Bobbitt and Kenny McNair were two friends of his in high school. I knew John Bobbitt the rest of his life. I kept in touch with him. I think Paul was good friends with both of them. They hacked around together. Paul didn't spend much time with people his own age because, as I say, he already considered himself an adult and spent his time studying, reading and thinking on his own. He wasn't in a gang, exactly.
I do remember some other boys that he brought over that used to hang around the house. George Mann was the name of one. I think he and Walter, together, knew quite a few Bohemian people on the south side of Chicago. At least they used to take me to parties there. So there was a social group of approximately his own age, maybe, that was involved there. I don't think any of this was terribly meaningful to Paul, but maybe it was. It was very meaningful to me because they were the big people, the big brothers and the big brothers' friends that I longed to be a part of.
I remember one time they all came home and went out in the kitchen in the middle of the night to get something to eat. I'd been asleep upstairs and I came downstairs and I stayed there for an hour. I remember eating some cold fried smelts from the ice box during this particular episode and listening to them talk, and I though it was very dramatic and very marvelous to be part of a group of older boys, you know, as they seemed like men to me. I was in high school, I guess. The way they talked and the way they included me in the conversation without paying any special attention to me was a very happy experience. I can only remember it happening once so it probably was not a very common occurrence. In that sense, he did have friends with Walter and with a group of people about the same age. Did Paul seem especially serious as a child? Oh yes, Paul was extremely serious as a child. And even in the childhood pictures that we have now Walter is often smiling but Paul never is. Did he show more interest in adults than in his peers? Well, sure. He naturally showed much more interest in adults because he was one himself in his own mind. It had overwhelmed him.
One time I was discussing my daughter Maggie with Paul and I was saying how advanced she was intellectually. And then I said, "And she doesn't seem to be very competitive in school at all, which I'm very glad about. She just takes it as it comes and she doesn't try to beat the other fellow out at all." And he said, "Well, no wonder she's not competitive, she's competitive with the whole adult world." I realized in later years that he was talking also about himself. You don't have to be very competitive with your peers if you already consider yourself a fully developed adult person. In that respect, Maggie as a child was a little similar to Paul. Was homosexuality ever discussed in your house when you were growing up? No, but heterosexuality wasn't either. Once in a while I had an inkling that my mother was very disturbed by homosexuality. She went to some lectures of Karen Horney when Karen Horney first came to the Institute for Psychoanalysis in Chicago. She had some lectures for the general public and social workers and so on. And one of the things that was discussed in one of those lectures was the development of female sexuality, including homosexuality. And my mother came home and was hysterical. Paul and I were both there and she talked to us about it. She said what a terrible lecture it was and how upsetting it was and how she had always had such wonderful relations with her women friends and there wasn't anything sexual about it. She just got real excited about the whole thing.
There was also a reference to some kind of brother/sister sexual behavior in one of those lectures. And she was equally upset about that. And she kept telling us that she and Herbert had never had anything to do with each other sexually. That was one of her brothers. Well, Paul and I just sat there and listened to it. We couldn't really do anything about it. But it was obvious to us that she was defending herself very strongly against this new information. Maybe there was something sexual between her and her women friends as a young woman, or with her brother. How aware were your parents of Paul's and Walter's homosexuality? I don't think they were aware of it at all. Of course, my father died in 1935, but I don't think he paid much attention to any developing relationships. It was before the war, so it was certainly before even Walter gave any inklings of being interested in other men. And certainly Paul, too. My mother accepted Walter and his friend Bob in later years completely as a couple. Bob was Walter's long-time lover and mate. I don't think she even thought about whether they were homosexuals or not.
They used to spend Christmas with her and she used to go out and see them. Bob was an interior decorator and his and Walter's apartment was very stylishly decorated in, you know, all white furnishings and stuff like that. She used to talk about that. She seemed to be quite fond of Bob. She showed me a Christmas tree that he had made for her, one made out of false material. You could use it every year and she liked it a lot. I think she just said to herself that homosexuality doesn't exist, so she could become friendly with Walter and Bob. Bob died quite soon either before or after my mother. My mother did accept it completely, but she never referred to it as a homosexual relationship; she never did with me. Were they liberal in accepting Paul and Walter's homosexuality? No, the parents were not liberal in accepting it in any way. Did Paul and Walter have to go through some trying times? I think they simply went through concealment. I don't think they had any confrontations with my parents, at least not any that I know about. They certainly never acknowledged it to me until much later. It was after Paul started publishing books on homosexuality that Walter began writing me about a man that he was living with. He never had even mentioned it up to that time. So I think it was a big family secret. Did anybody know that Paul and Walter had sex together as teenagers? I certainly didn't and I don't think anybody else did either. I don't doubt that it's so, but it was not anything that everybody recognized openly at all. Why do you think that Walter found it easier to accept a homosexual lifestyle than Paul? Well, I really don't know. I think Paul was under some kind of enormous pressure to marry, to conform, to be a psychoanalyst, to have a child, to do things that looked like "regular people." I don't think Walter was under that much pressure to conform, and I think he adopted a less visible kind of career and melted into the mass where a lot of people were already homosexual. He sent me a picture of a young man that he knew in the army. He was gone overseas for four years and I think it was during that time that it became obvious that he was homosexual and that it was accepted in the group that he was in perfectly well. I don't remember exactly what it was but, you know, there's lots of homosexuals in the army. It became a perfectly okay thing to be, sort of, during that time, which I don't think it was for Paul. That's really the only explanation I can give.
Walter wrote me a letter one time in recent years talking about his development. He said that as a child he had spent a great deal of time with heroes. He admired people from afar. He said, "Of course, this impeded my intellectual development." And I thought that was interesting. I never thought of it that way.
I know that even as children in school, Paul seemed a lot more advanced academically than Walter. A biologist named H. H. Newman, who wrote a book about twins, gave a biology lecture in a course that I was taking at the University of Chicago. He was just a guest lecturer in a biology course. I went up afterwards to introduce myself and I said, "I think you included my twin brothers in your study of twins." It had been published a good many years before. I told him my name and everything. And he said, yes, he remembered them well. He had interviewed them with I.Q.-type tests in about the fourth or fifth grade. He'd come out to Oak Park and they had given him the list of all the twins that they had. And these were two that he happened to study and interview and give these tests to.
And he said, "Whatever happened to the one that was so smart and the one that was so slow?" And that was his version of Paul and Walter. Of course, it never seemed that way to me as a child. Walter didn't seem slow at all. He seemed entirely different from Paul in his breadth and intellectual grasp and all that. But he didn't seem slow. He seemed very witty and very clever, but, as I said before, not ambitious intellectually.
One time we were sitting around a table in the little room off the kitchen. It was called the maid's sitting room in our house. Somebody said to Walter, "Would you like an egg?" And he said, "Un oeuf is as good as a feast." That was the first bilingual pun I had ever heard in my life and I thought it was terribly clever. When did you first realize there was something special about Paul? Always, I think. Paul was the first person I ever really knew, as you know from my writings. So he seemed extremely special. I sort of adopted him as my parent. I wanted him to be the fountainhead of wisdom and help in growing up, to guard me and guide me. You know, I wasn't too happy with either of my parents so I adopted Paul as a substitute parent. That made him very special from the very beginning.
I never got in adult life any sense that Paul realized how important he was to me as a child. He treated me very pleasantly as an adult. He was quite distant, but he wasn't mean and he wasn't hostile to me at all. But with this enormous load that I put on him as a child, I had him on a pedestal. I don't think he necessarily realized that.
I read a book just recently that said that being on a pedestal is like being in jail. There's so little room to walk around on a pedestal. And I realize that for one child to put another in this enormously exalted and pedestal position is not necessarily a service. So he may have rejected that role and not really joined my desire to put him on a pedestal. When did it become apparent that Paul was going to live a creative life? I think about college age is when I became aware that he was going to lead an unconventional life and, in that sense, the possibility of a creative life. I think in high school he seemed just like a high achiever but a standard person. I think it was after this that he seemed quite different. There was a period at the University at Chicago when he was not in school, and he slept in the day and had an apartment on the south side and did work at night and wandered around the streets a lot. So it was a different schedule than anybody else had. He was writing something on the causes of war at that time, I think. I never read it but I remember him giving it to my father to have the secretary at his office type it. That was one of the things he did during that period. I guess that was when I thought that he was beginning a creative life. Can you think of any reasons why, of all the children, Paul probably had the most unconventional, difficult and ultimately creative life? Well, I think simply by intellectual power. You know, he was the one that had by far the most expanded intellect of any of the children in the family. I think that he also identified so closely with my mother and wanted to be the manager of everything — the role that she had — to such an extreme extent. My mother was the manager of that family just, you know, to the nth degree. And I think that this added to his difficulty, but I think it also added to his ambition. He had something really to overcome, which was the mother. It's been very important in my life too. Replacing my mother has been one of my life's tasks. I didn't realize till much later that I was going to make quite a few of the same mistakes my mother made, because I always thought in the beginning that I would never make any of them. But some of those things do recur. Did your parents ever realize that Paul was going to do something much more important with his life than being just another famous psychoanalyst? Well, no. I don't know about my father because, as I say, he died before Paul became a psychoanalyst. I think my mother thought that this was plenty to be, a famous psychoanalyst. I think that she had the usual Jewish pride in, you know, "my son the doctor." I was very amazed, since I had always considered myself the favorite child in the family, to meet some people one time from the south side who came to my mother's house for a meeting of the Abraham Lincoln Center Board that my mother was on for so many years. I was visiting from Washington. And when they walked in and met me, they said, "Oh, a daughter! We didn't know Mrs. Rosenfels had a daughter. All she ever talks about are her sons." It was somewhat of a come-down for me, because I'd always thought I was the most important child in the family, in that sense.
So, I think she did boast a great deal about "my son the doctor" with Paul, and I think it was very satisfying to her. And I think if anybody had said, "He's not going to continue to practice psychoanalysis. He's going to break some kind of new ground in the whole field of human behavior," I think she would have just not believed it. I don't think she would have gotten a glimpse of that exactly.
It's more the people that were sensitive to him that understood something about that. After Paul died, I sent one of the stories about him to my friend, Carol Gardner. She said that she always looked up to Paul a great deal when we were children. Whenever she came over to our house, she enjoyed being there. It was so much safer and calmer than her house. That interested me a lot because I always thought of our house, especially dinner-time at our house, as a real "battle royal," a real hysterical, unpleasant occasion. All the family conflicts came out at the dinner table, in my opinion. But she thought it was very nice and very different from her house. And what she said about Paul was, "I always remember his sense of justice." Even as a high-school-age person, Paul impressed her that way. It's far beyond the ordinary kind of appreciation of a person. Did Paul share his problems, goals, and in general, his growth process with you or his brothers when you were growing up? Somewhat with me. I think he did more when we were younger, yes, about things that were occurring to him. But we mostly talked about intellectual things. We didn't talk about how he felt too much. We talked about Bertrand Russell and we talked about Freud. We talked about that kind of stuff and that's why he was my main teacher. But we didn't actually talk about how he felt most of the time.
He told me about one episode when he went to visit some doctor in a clinic or hospital in southern Illinois somewhere. We had met this man through some friends of ours in Oak Park. There was a homosexual group of men that we knew. And when Paul got down there, he discovered that the doctors all slept up on the roof. And he slept up there with the doctors during their time-off period from the hospital and had sex with at least one of the men up there during that time. This was their pattern of behavior; they went up on the roof to sleep in between their shifts and that's when they had sex with each other, and visitors I guess. He was quite frank about talking about that.
I can't always remember what I knew at the time and what I knew later. It's a little bit mixed up in my mind. I know that Paul went on a walking trip with John Bobbitt during the time that John visited us at Neebish and they walked from where our cottage was or where St. Joseph's Island was up to the Sault Ste. Marie. They took two or three nights to do it and slept out and then came back on the boat, I guess. It didn't seem like they were in a sexual relationship with each other at the time. But years later, after I got to know John and his wife, Del, who's a close friend of mine now, she mentioned that Paul had been very eager to have sex with John during that trip. So some of these things that I now know I don't know whether I knew them at the time or not. Can you describe the phobic anxiety attacks that he had as a child? Did they set him apart? Was he treated differently because of them? People were very upset about his behavior. One night he came screaming down the hall in the grip of a real anxiety attack. I think my parents took him to some kind of doctor afterwards, and worried about him a lot. I remember they took him to see Mr. Coué at Orchestra Hall. Mr. Coué was a faith healer of that time who had his patients or clients repeat the phrase, "Day by day in every way I'm getting better and better." And Paul did repeat that phrase, for a period of time anyway — I don't remember exactly how long. When they took him to see Mr. Coué at a public lecture, all kinds of people, sort of like at Lourdes, came to the stage and left their crutches at one side and walked across the stage to the other, showing how "Couéism" had cured them of whatever was wrong with them. I was not there but I must have heard about it from Paul because I think the whole performance was very moving and upsetting to him at the same time — all these people with these serious physical handicaps and difficulties being present there.
I sort of sensed that he was horrified by illness during that period. Somebody said that he had St. Vitus' Dance. I don't remember exactly who said that. He told me later that was the old-fashioned name for Huntington's Chorea, which he obviously did not have. But he had some tics and jiggles and automatic eye movements, and his hand moved spasmodically from time to time, and that's why they had that kind of diagnosis for him. He obviously outgrew those physical manifestations of anxiety.
Yes, I think we were all very aware that he was bedeviled by something more than just the average childhood fears, and I, at least, felt very sympathetic towards him. I remember loaning him one of my dolls. I slept with a whole bed full of stuffed animal dolls on the porch. Paul and Walter slept on the porch too, and sometimes at night I would loan Paul one of my dolls. I had so many that they took up three quarters of the bed, so I could easily give one up for the evening. It seemed to comfort him. Do you know if he stayed in touch with any other relatives in his adult years? No, I don't think so. But one time when I was visiting Paul in New York, he told me about his son Danny's sort of rediscovering him. He said that Danny had looked him up and come over, and they had a very sort of pleasant reunion after so many years of never seeing each other. One of the things they talked about was Danny's growing up years in Chicago with Paul. He mentioned to Paul that after Paul left home, a lot of drug samples came to the house, just because Paul was on all the medical lists. And Danny used to keep them. He'd take different ones at different times to experiment with them. He was very pleased to be on the receiving end of all of these drug samples that came to the house.
There was a flu epidemic in New York right about that time, and they were discussing that one day. And Paul said, "You know, your mother nearly died in the flu epidemic that swept the United States and the rest of the world in 1919." A great many people did die, and she had it. And Danny said, "But my mother wasn't alive in 1919." It turned out that all these years Joan had falsified her age to Danny by about 10 years or so, so that she would seem younger. And he was very, very annoyed with Paul for blowing the whistle on Joan's deception, and he didn't come back for a long time. That was how the relationship, at least at that point, terminated. I don't know whether they got together later on or not. Have you read Paul's books? Have you tried to evaluate Paul's theories, and if so what do you think of them? Well, I've tried and tried and tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to read Paul's books. I understand the book that's just been republished. I understand that better than any of the others.
When he first started publishing books, they seemed to me almost like a litany of statements made over and over again in kind of a musical pattern that didn't make an awful lot of sense. They sounded like elegies; it was sort of like reading the Bible. I really didn't know what they meant. Every once in awhile I would get a glimmer here and there, but the style in which they were written put me off and I really couldn't understand them very well.
After he started writing about himself in and the diatribe against , those were written in more ordinary language and I understood those just fine. I have found by knowing you, Dean, and by talking to you about Paul, that I understand a lot more of what he was up to than I did previously. I think it sort of brings it out of the hidden recesses of my mind into the here and now, and I really do understand it better. But I always felt that I was being asked to consider him as the coming messiah. And I really didn't want to consider Paul that way. I wanted to consider him as my big brother. As I told you I put him on a pedestal for far too long when I was a child and so in modern times I would rather consider him as an equal person and not as a holy man coming to rescue the world. So I think I've been sort of negative towards the very high and exalted opinion of him that all the people at the Ninth Street Center have. On the other hand, they really knew him as an adult and I really didn't. So in a way, their opinion is worth a lot more than mine. How do you react to the claims by Paul's students that he has made a significant contribution to the science of psychology, or in fact has actually founded what may come to be regarded as an entirely new science? Well, I think it's wonderful if they think so, and who knows, they may be right. I think he's made a significant contribution. But I have no way of predicting this myself. And it doesn't get through to me in the same way it does to them or to you. Has becoming familiar with Paul's ideas helped you to live better or to understand life differently? I think all ideas that you understand help you to live better. You incorporate them into your daily life. I do not have the feeling against psychoanalysis that Paul had. I had seven years or so of psychoanalytic therapy at a certain point in my life and I found it unbelievably helpful to me. As I often say, it's the work that I put into it that made it helpful. I don't think it was a magic wand that the psychoanalyst waved over me or anything. I think that amount of work in a situation where I was feeling very badly about myself was very helpful to me. I gained the most improvement, I think, about five or six years after the analysis was terminated, showing that it took that long to incorporate all those insights into my actual life.
So as far as Paul is concerned, some of his advice to me directly was good and some of it was not. He advised me not to marry Philleo at the time, because he said I wasn't ready to be married: I hadn't solved my own personal problems to the extent necessary to marry. But I got married anyway. And then, quite a few years later, he said that had been just a jealous remark on his part, it didn't mean anything at all. The point is that I wasn't any more ready to get married than not ready to get married, and he was absolutely right. But on the other hand, marriage was part of the growing up process that we went through. So you can grow up within the marriage as well as outside of the marriage at about the same rate. Paul realized that this had been perhaps a foolish remark on his part. Did you see that you and Philleo were polarized before Paul mentioned it? I don't remember him mentioning that. I understand a part of what he means, that is, that we together made one person, one took one role and one took another, sort of like twins growing up. A part of myself which was really subdued in the marriage has begun to flower quite a bit since Philleo's death. That is true. That shows that the polarization had taken place. If I understand the word polarized correctly, it's quite similar to the complementary relationship that I described among the twins. Since Philleo did his share of the marriage very well, I tried to do my share in a complementary way, not always successfully to be sure. But that part is coming now.
For instance, Philleo used to manage the cranberry marsh. I never had anything to do with it. I wouldn't even look at a piece of paper that had an annual statement on it, even though he wanted me to get involved in it very much. It was only in the last six months of his life, when he found it really necessary, that I even began to read the stuff he wanted me to read. However, I listened to him talk about the cranberry marsh, I suppose, every day of our whole relationship for the last sixty years. So now that I am the manager of it, I do have a lot of history and a lot of lore to apply to it, and I'm also enjoying managing it very much. But I'm enjoying managing it because he's not here to manage it. In other words, I wouldn't do it if he were here. He would have that half. I would show a lot of resistance to it. So if that's what the polarization concept is, I think it is a very useful concept. Do you think Paul's scientific contribution will become important to the world at large? It may be. If it is, it's due to your handling of his writings and the memorial aspect of the Ninth Street Center towards Paul. That's what will make it important to the world at large, the work that you are doing right now. Do you think that a system like Paul's can change the potential importance of psychology in the life of the average man? Yes, it can, if they read the works and if they understand them and if they belong to a community such as yours, a community of supportive people that will read and understand them. I don't think anybody's going to do it alone except very unusual people, but I think it could happen if it's in the format that you are working on now.