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Finding Aid for the David Rigler Collection of Research Materials related to Linguistic-Psychological Studies of Genie (pseudonym), 1895-2003, 1970-2003
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography/History
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: David Rigler Collection of Research Materials related to Linguistic-Psychological Studies of Genie (pseudonym)
    Date (inclusive): 1895-2003, 1970-2003
    Collection number: 800
    Creator: Rigler, David.
    Extent: 74 boxes (37 linear ft.)

    2 shoeboxes.

    7 oversize boxes.
    Abstract: "Genie" (b. 1957) is the pseudonym of a young girl raised in an abusive and isolated environment until the age of 13. The collection consists of material that chronicles her discovery and the study and rehabilitation efforts of researchers. Items include reports and essays; correspondence; notes; medical records; diagnostic material; legal paperwork such as depositions, summonses, and settlement agreements; pedagogical material; administrative paperwork; Genie's artwork; articles and clippings; photographs and slides; audio-visual videotapes, cassettes, and film; assorted printed material; and ephemera.
    Language: Finding aid is written in English.
    Language of the Material: Materials are in English.
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact UCLA Library Special Collections for paging information.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: This collection is RESTRICTED and CLOSED to access. Contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for additional information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    The materials in the collection raise privacy and confidentiality concerns that prevent the University from granting any permission to access the materials for any purpose other than personal research. The University does not hold any copyrights in these materials and cannot grant permission to copy or publish. Any person seeking to publish the materials would have to resolve potential issues concerning copyright, statutory protection of medical records (HIPPA), and common law and California constitutional privacy. The University cannot address or resolve these issues. While the University is able to provide access to some of the materials for personal research purposes, it cannot provide access beyond this narrow restriction nor grant permission to copy or publish."

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Susan Curtiss, 2006.

    Processing Note

    The materials in this collection had been in the possession of Dr. David Rigler, a lead investigator in the Genie studies, since 1975. He stored the materials in his office and/or residence following the conclusion of the research in the mid to late Seventies. The collection was boxed and shipped to Dr. Susan Curtiss, UCLA Department of Linguistics, in 2005. Manuscripts Division staff completed a box-level inventory at that time. The papers were dehumidified with silica gel beads, and treated for potential insect infestation with sticky traps and boric acid bait. In early 2006, Timothy Holland created a preliminary inventory of the audio-visual materials, and Elizabeth Sheehan began processing the papers under the supervision of Laurel McPhee. Materials were placed into folders, described, and arranged into series and subseries levels to enhance access to the collection and to create a finding aid.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], David Rigler Collection of Research Materials related to Linguistic-Psychological Studies of Genie (pseudonym) (Collection 800). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 5404384 


    "Genie" is the pseudonym of a 13 year old girl who, on November 4, 1970, was admitted to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles as a victim of extreme isolation and deprivation by her immediate family. She was discovered after a Department of Social Services case worker took note of Genie when her mother, who was losing her eyesight, visited Social Services seeking assistance for the blind. Subsequent medical and psychological tests at Childrens Hospital noted that Genie had language and motor skills far below her age level.
    In 1971, Childrens Hospital staff members intimately involved in Genie's case applied to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for grant funding to study Genie's case history and developmental progress during rehabilitation efforts. A grant was approved and from 1971 to 1975 Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA) administered the study entitled "Developmental Consequence of Extreme Social Isolation," under the direction of Dr. David Rigler. During the course of the study, members of the research team included other CHLA staff, UCLA Department of Linguistics researchers (including Dr. Susan Curtiss and Dr. Victoria Fromkin), and a variety of external consultants.
    In August 1971, it was determined that for Genie's benefit she should be removed from the hospital environment and be placed in a foster home. Because of her unique and severe case, placement was difficult and it was eventually determined that she would reside with David and Marilyn Rigler. The Riglers, in addition to being research team members, were Genie's foster parents from 1971 to 1975. This unusual situation would be a factor in a lawsuit later filed by Genie's mother.
    In 1975, NIMH declined to renew the grant and the study came to a close. Genie's placement with the Riglers also came to an end. Now 18 years old and legally an adult, she was released to the care of her mother, who was unable to cope with Genie's special needs. Genie was then placed in a foster home, which proved to be especially detrimental to her progress and psychological well-being. As a result, she was readmitted to Childrens Hospital in 1977 for two weeks. Upon her release, Genie was placed in another foster home.
    In 1979, Genie's mother filed a lawsuit (C 276 459) against Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and David Rigler, Howard Hansen, James Kent, Vrinda Knapp, and Susan Curtiss, individually. In the suit, she alleged that CHLA and the various defendants violated the physician-patient, psycho-therapist relationship of Genie and herself when confidential information was revealed publicly. The suit was settled in 1984 and the acrimony of the lawsuit temporarily severed the relationship between the researchers and Genie's mother, resulting in several years of non-communication with her and Genie. However, in 1992 Dr. David Rigler and Genie's mother reestablished communication, and the Riglers, subsequently, visited with Genie.
    Although not indicated in the collection files, according to Russ Rymer, author of the book Genie: A Scientific Tragedy, by the early 1990s Genie was living in an adult home for the mentally retarded, where it is believed she remains in 2006.

    Scope and Content

    Collection documents the psycholinguistic study of Genie (pseudonym), a young girl discovered at the age of 13 to have been kept for many years in conditions of extreme isolation and deprivation by her family. The materials in this collection primarily document a National Institute of Mental Health study grant (MH 21191) entitled "Developmental Consequence of Extreme Social Isolation," which was administered by Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles under the primary direction of Dr. David Rigler. In addition to the formal study material, the collection also documents the foster care of Genie by David and Marilyn Rigler from 1971 to 1975, and a California lawsuit (case number C 276459) brought by Genie's mother against Childrens Hospital and individuals affiliated with the study. The collection consists of a variety of material including reports and papers authored by those associated with the study, study notes, correspondence, diagnostic and pedagogical material, medical records, Genie's art work, funding paperwork, guardianship material, legal material, photographs, and an abundance of audio-visual material.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Arranged in the following series:
    1. Audio visual materials, 1970-1993 (44 boxes, 2 shoeboxes, and 2 oversize boxes), subseries A-E as follows:
      • 1A. 1/2" videotapes.
      • 1B. VHS cassettes.
      • 1C. Mini DVCs and Hi8 P6-120HMP video.
      • 1D. Super 8 mm film.
      • 1E. Audio materials.
    2. Conferences, essays and reports, 1968-1983 (2.5 boxes).
    3. Funding, 1970-1976 (2 boxes), subseries A-C as follows:
      • 3A. Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles.
      • 3B. Grant Foundation.
      • 3C. National Institute of Mental Health.
    4. Guardianship, 1970-1978 (2 boxes), subseries A-D as follows:
      • 4A. Correspondence.
      • 4B. Education.
      • 4C. Legal materials.
      • 4D. Miscellaneous.
    5. 5. Lawsuit, 1978-1984 (1 box).
    6. Miscellaneous, 1968-2003 (2.5 boxes), subseries A-D as follows:
      • 6A. Clippings.
      • 6B. Correspondence.
      • 6C. Medical files.
      • 6D. Assorted notes and papers.
    7. Photographs, ca. 1895-1993 (2.5 boxes).
    8. Research materials, ca. 1938-1994 (17.5 boxes, 5 oversize boxes), subseries A-H as follows:
      • 8A. Administrative.
      • 8B. Correspondence.
      • 8C. Family history.
      • 8D. Genie's artwork.
      • 8E. Language, sleep and social behavior.
      • 8F. Miscellaneous.
      • 8G. Notes.
      • 8H. Testing.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Rigler, David--Archives.
    Psychologists--California--Los Angeles--Archival resources.
    Genie, 1957- .
    Abused children--California--Los Angeles--Archival resources.
    Feral children--California--Los Angeles--Archival resources.
    Child development--Research--Archival resources.
    Social isolation--Archival resources.
    Language acquisition--Archival resources.
    Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles.