From the Archives: Strange and Unfamiliar Territory

Dr. AndersonCamilla May Anderson was born in Sidney, Montana in 1904. She decided while still in grade school to enter the medical field, though she wrote in her autobiography, "everything about doctors and medicine was strange and unfamiliar territory to me and my family." She received a scholarship to the University of Oregon Medical School (pre-cursor to OHSU) and graduated in 1929, interning at Multnomah County Hospital.

Entering the profession at the height of the Depression, Anderson chose to specialize in psychiatry. She went on to practice in several states including Washington and Oregon. In Oregon, she served as Director of the outpatient clinic of the Oregon State Hospital; she resigned in protest in 1964, over budget cuts and competition from the community mental health clinics. Anderson relocated to Southern California, becoming the chief psychiatrist at the women's prison, the California Institute for Women. She retired at age 65 in 1969 and returned to Sidney.

In the 1970s, Anderson gave testimony for a landmark case which eventually led to the end of hanging in Canada (Regina v. Vaillancourt). Dr. Alan Davidson, Canadian psychiatrist and participant and subsequent historian of the event, wrote: "After telling Camilla that she was going to have a hard time testifying because he "hated women" Judge Frank Donnelly was so fascinated by her performance that he adjourned the court so she could meet all the psychiatrists witnessing the trial… Camilla had been brought into the trial when Paul Wender backed out for fear of spoiling his reputation."

Author of six books, she was best known for her work in behavioral dynamics, psychodynamics, and identification of symptoms of early brain damage.

In 1941, she married musician and former patient, Leonard Friendly. In 1942, the couple gave birth to a brain damaged child, Janet Carol, about whom Anderson wrote a memoir.


Pictured: Camilla May Anderson, MD

Contributed by Karen Peterson, Archivist, OHSU Historical Collections & Archives