How old were Henrietta's oldest (Lawrence) and youngest (Joe) children when their mother died in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Henrietta’s oldest son Lawrence was 14 and her youngest son Joe was 1 year old.

Lawrence was born in 1935 when his mother was only 14 years old.  She died in 1951 when he was only 16.  Lawrence was drafted a year later, at only 16 (p. 111).  Her youngest child Joe was born in 1950, four months before she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She died 8 months later when he was just a little over 1 year old.

The morning of Henrietta’s funeral, Day walked through the mud with Deborah, Joe, Sonny, and Lawrence.  But not Elsie.  She was still in Crownsville and did not even know her mother had died. (p. 92) 

Of the five children, Elsie was deaf and dumb.  At the time she married in 1941, she had already had Lawrence and her second child Elsie, who died in 1955.

The description of her children shows how difficult Henrietta's life was.  She was poor and black, and had few opportunities for medical treatment for either her or her children.   

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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