Lucy Ainsworth Cooke

Lucy Ainsworth Cooke. Courtesy of the Vermont Historical Society.
Lucy Ainsworth Cooke. Courtesy of the Vermont Historical Society.

Time Period

1860-1910

Subject Categories

Business, Medicine

Notable Facts

Known as "Sleeping Lucy," Cooke diagnosed illnesses, prescribed remedies, and set broken bones while in a hypnotic trance. Developed a successful mail-order business selling herbal remedies.

Personal Information

Date of Birth

05/04/1819

Date of Death

05/24/1895

Primary Residence

Montpelier

Historical Significance

Lucy Ainsworth, known for most of her life as "Sleeping Lucy," was a renown medical clairvoyant, who diagnosed illness and prescribed remedies while in a hypnotic trance. One of nine children, she was raised in Calais, Vermont, helping to support her family by braiding straw and making bonnets. While apprenticed to a tailor to learn fine sewing, she became ill and nearly bedridden for two years. After local physicians exhausted their efforts to effect a cure, the Ainsworths asked her brother Luther, who had learned Mesmerism, for help. Similar to hypnosis, Mesmerism supposedly allowed a person to project a life-force or energy field to another to induce a trance-like state. Under Luther's influence, Lucy fell into a hypnotic trance in which she prescribed her own cure. When her health improved, she vowed to dedicate her life to studying disease and finding cures.

In 1846 Lucy married Charles R. Cooke of Morristown, Vermont, in Moriah, New York. Both Lucy's husband and her brother Luther Ainsworth supposedly possessed extra-sensory perception and helped develop and manage her career as a professional clairvoyant. Charles Cooke induced Lucy's trances while the couple developed her business in Reading, Vermont, from 1848 to 1855, when Charles Cooke died. They had one child, Julia Ann Cooke, in 1851.

After her husband's death, Lucy Cooke moved to Montpelier, where she practiced her art until 1876 with the help of her assistant, Everett William Raddin, who may have replaced her husband as mesmerist. According to local clients, Sleeping Lucy was able to cure illness and set broken bones and fractures by "laying on of hands?; broken arms, legs, collar-bones, and dislocated shoulders cost ten dollars each. Others consulted her psychic powers to find lost objects, for which she charged a dollar. She studied pharmacology, developed cures, and operated a brisk mail order business, both for consultations and herbal remedies. Her products included: Rhubarb Lozenges, White Pond Lily Syrup, Pitch of Sassafras, Diaphoretic Drops, Cedar Ointment, Restorative Powders, Dandelion Compound, and Woman's Friend. Most of her clients lived in New England, but some consulted her from as far away as Iowa and Tennessee.

During the height of Cooke's career, male physicians and surgeons questioned her healing powers and sought to undermine her legitimacy by ridiculing her practice. In response, she claimed to be the "Priestess of Humanity" and to have successfully set over thirteen hundred bones. She printed testimonials from patients and challenged any surgeon to match her record.

From 1877 until her death in 1895, Lucy Cooke practiced in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, with Raddin who became her husband. During these years her career declined, she went into debt, and for a time she became estranged from her only daughter. Reports that Raddin misappropriated funds and treated her badly suggest that he contributed to her unhappiness. She contracted a series of illnesses and finally died at her Cambridge residence, apparently from colon cancer.

Occupations

  • Medical Clairvoyant

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Lucy Ainsworth Cooke Link