How are Greenwich Village oldsters different from any others? I found that out when my friend, Jack Baittinger (now called Zach), asked if I’d be available to help look after an older woman who lived in the West Village. Part of her story was, she lived in the village during prohibition, and might have even met Dorothy Parker (!).
Or maybe it was Edna St. Vincent Millay. At any rate, my new elder-care charge was about 80 years old, and somewhat in the throes of dementia -- though at the time, we figured she was an ornery old woman who liked to get attention by doing outrageous things. This might have been one of the problems with getting a permanent assistant for her.
I was planning my trip to London and needed to do any kind of work to get by. . . the Nervus Rex income was drying up, and I was able to grab more freelancing and some good paying transcription work, as well (for Martha Hume, I think).
So I went to meet this legend of a woman, Nadya Olyanova Carruthers. A noted handwriting analyst (or graphologist), she was a pretty big deal for a while. In fact, when I met her, she had me write a page in longhand as a sample for her to analyze before deigning to hire me as a part time helper.
I passed the test -- for years, I had studied graphology informally and made sure I had all the good traits, or at least, I cultivated them. “Change your handwriting, change your personality, change your future,” was the idea -- and as a kid, I desperately wanted to change because I was one unhappy twelve-year-old. Of course, now I know that most 12-yr-olds are desperately unhappy, but I digress.
(from the NY Times obituary in ’91) Nadya Olyanova, a graphologist who analyzed the handwriting of Adolph Hitler before his death and said he showed strong suicidal tendencies, was a consultant to the psychiatric services of Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn and to the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kan. She was also a consultant to psychologists, psychiatrists and businesses.
Born in a small town near Kiev in the Ukraine, she was brought to the United States as a child and grew up in Brooklyn.
In the early 1930's she studied psychology in New York with the Austrian psychoanalyst Alfred Adler. She had a weekly radio show on WOR and analyzed the handwriting of thousands of people.
In the fall of 1939, six years before Hitler's death, she wrote in The Ohio State Journal in Columbus: "Characteristic of Herr Hitler's handwritings are three outstanding traits: indecision, depression and morbid introspection. It takes no handwriting expert to recognize the cramped, drooping uncertain signature as a manifestation of the Fuhrer's cramped, self-centered approach to life."
Now that we know more about this amazing woman, I’ll come back and talk about what it was like to care for her in 1981. . .