116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
In 1979, a woman died in a Morton, Ill., nursing home, more than 50 years after she had been found wandering along a highway in northern Illinois.
In 1926, authorities determined the woman had been beaten and raped. She didn’t know her name, where she was from or the names of her family. She thought she had been a schoolteacher. And she was pregnant.
Authorities had no place to put her in the 1920s other than a mental hospital. Her baby, assuming one was born, probably was adopted, though no records remain to prove that.
The nameless woman became known as Mary Doefour. Illinois already had three Mary Does in state institutions, so she was called Mary Doefour.
When she died, an Illinois newspaper reporter researched Doefour’s life and speculated she was the Iowa schoolteacher who had disappeared Nov. 5, 1926.
Anna Myrle Sizer of Mount Vernon was an honors student at Cornell College in 1924. The next year, she was teaching second and third grades in Maquoketa, earning money so she could continue her education at Cornell.
Sizer took the train home to Mount Vernon to visit her parents nearly every weekend.
In 1926, she attended summer school in Boulder, Colo., returning to her classroom in the fall. She disappeared Nov. 5.
In trying to find out what had happened to her, investigators discovered the 28-year-old had withdrawn $10 from the bank before she left Maquoketa for Mount Vernon that weekend, something she did nearly every week. She boarded the train with fellow teacher Kathryn Turner.
Sizer was last seen getting off the train at the Marion station, telling Turner, who stayed on until the Cedar Rapids stop, that she was not going to Mount Vernon that weekend, that she had something to do and would return to Maquoketa on Saturday evening.
Sizer’s aunt, Alice Sizer, also a teacher at Maquoketa, called Sizer’s parents Monday to find out why her niece hadn’t shown up to teach that day. It was the first indication she was missing.
Sizer’s father, William Sizer of Mount Vernon, told police his daughter was blue-eyed with light brown hair and had been wearing a black hat and a green and gray plaid coat, carrying a small overnight bag, when last seen.
The Gazette ran a photo of Sizer on Nov. 10, and the next day, the paper reported that “hundreds of persons from several towns, working last night and today along the Lincoln Highway from Mount Vernon to Clinton” had found no trace of Sizer.
On Nov. 11, about 50 Cornell College students and Mount Vernon Boy Scouts formed a search party and continued looking for her. Garage attendants were notified, and radio stations KWCR in Cedar Rapids and WSUI in Iowa City broadcast Sizer’s description.
Cedar Rapids teacher/social worker Jane Boyd told The Gazette she’d seen a woman in a plaid coat, carrying a small travel bag earlier in the week. The woman, she said, was walking erratically in the middle of Second Avenue SE. At 10th Street SE, she headed south on the sidewalk, but a few minutes later was walking the other way in the middle of the streetcar track.
Three weeks later, a rumor that Sizer was at the University Hospital in Iowa City was disproven.
On Nov. 26, boatmen searched the Cedar River from the 16th Avenue Bridge to Upper Palisades, without results. Mount Vernon Mayor Freeman Current headed a committee to hire a private detective to follow up on clues.
On a tip, the old county building in Marion was searched. Nothing was found.
“Scores of rumors and reports have been run down by citizens, state agents, Linn County officials and private detectives, but thus far the case remains as much of a mystery as ever,” The Gazette reported.
After following a lead to Kansas City proved fruitless, James Risden, chief of the state Bureau of Investigation, concluded the young woman was dead. He suggested that searchers cover the Marion area once more and drag Indian Creek before discontinuing the search.
Dead or alive?
In January 1927, the Maquoketa school board hired a teacher to replace Sizer.
In January 1928, law enforcement began looking at Dr. Jesse Cook and his wife, Eva. The pair had lived in Cedar Rapids before moving to Oxford Junction in Jones County. They had been charged with second-degree murder in the death of a 19-year-old woman after a botched abortion. Investigators found the Cooks had been in Cedar Rapids the weekend Sizer disappeared.
In November 1927, the anniversary of Sizer’s disappearance, the Des Moines Register reported a male Cornell student had “admitted to state agents that Miss Sizer was in a delicate condition and that he had offered to marry her, maintaining, however, that he was not responsible for her condition.”
“His confession led to a search of hospitals throughout the (Midwest), but his statements were never verified,” the Register reported.
Seven years after Sizer’s disappearance, her brother, George, started proceedings to declare her “absentee,” releasing her assets to the family.
The woman named Mary Doefour arrived at the Illinois state mental hospital in Manteno in 1928. Sizer disappeared in 1926. That didn’t fit, but Peoria Journal Star reporter Rick Baker went to the Manteno hospital in 1979 and found it hadn’t been open in 1926. The hospital’s records were skimpy but showed a woman had been transferred to Manteno from the mental health hospital in Kankakee when it opened.
At Manteno, the woman known as Doefour was subjected to electric shock treatments, overmedication and cold water baths — standard treatment for mental illness at the time.
Ten years later, Doefour was transferred to the Bartonville State Hospital, where she lived for 30 years. In 1972, she began living in nursing homes until she died of a heart attack March 2, 1979.
Finding proof that Mary Doefour was — or was not — Myrle Sizer was up to Myrle’s surviving brother, Harold Sizer.
Baker, the reporter, presented Sizer with the information he’d gathered so Sizer could ask an Illinois judge to release Mary Doefour’s medical records to him. Sizer refused, saying he’d come to terms with his sister being dead and that he did not wish to pursue the matter. .
So what happened to missing teacher Myrle Sizer remains a mystery.