The Manson Women: A “Family” Portrait by Clara Livsey, M.D.

The Manson Women: A “Family” Portrait

By Clara Livsey, M.D.

In The Manson Women, family therapist Clara Livsey gives us her professional opinion on the Family. I think the title is a bit misleading, but regardless of what you want to called it, this book is still great. It exposes the Manson family for what they are and makes each participate own up to their actions.

Book Description: A unique and provocative study of Charles Manson’s family – especially the women – by a noted family therapist who boldly claims that no one made them commit their crimes, despite their denials…no one but themselves.

In 1969, Charles Manson’s name was so involved with the grisly Tate-LaBianca murders that one crucial fact is often overlooked: Manson himself was not present at the actual bloodbath. His picture stared out of the front pages of newspapers across the country, seldom the faces of Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle, Leslie Van Houten or Tex Watson. Six years later Lynette Fromme, with her assassination attempt against Gerald Ford, and Sandra Good, with her violent threats against businessmen, made headlines. Yet when his family burst once more into the news, Manson had been in prison for five years.

Basing her book on lengthy prison interviews, including a rare five-hour talk with Manson himself, Dr. Livsey traces the cult’s tortured evolution from love commune to violent conclave, analyzing the relationships between Manson and his followers and debunking the myths that have obscured our perception of these criminals. Certainly Manson was involved in plotting the murders, but, more to the point, he understood the deepest yearnings and immorality of his companions. “There was,” says Dr. Livsey, “something for everyone in the commission of the crimes.”

Because of the alarming similarity of Manson’s young women – all from white, middle-class families – to thousands more, the need to unravel their criminal motives is particularly acute.

A work of rare and profound significance, this morality tale of our times yields an unusual look at the lives of a group of women criminals, thrill-seeking or power-hungry, and at the motives and passions that drove them to kill. “A major concern of mine,” says Dr. Livsey, “is today’s overemphasis on the leaders of deviant groups. I believe we ought to concentrate on investigating so-called followers and on educating parents and others so they produce fewer of them. ”

Pages: 244

Publisher: Richard Marek Pubs (May 1980)

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6 Responses to The Manson Women: A “Family” Portrait by Clara Livsey, M.D.

  1. David says:

    What a crock of crap… the real story will never be told.

  2. Kitana says:

    Go to or and order “The Manson File: Myth and Reality of an Outlaw Shaman” EVRYTHING is explained in that book.

  3. Fred Bloggs says:

    I found this a really useful book and it’s chock full of interesting moves by Clara Livsey, plenty of interesting insights and she intelligently puts forward why each of the women that she writes of were responsible for their part in murder.
    But in my opinion, she makes pretty much the same error that most people that take a side make, that is, in order to hold one position, a whole lot of the other side has to be ignored.
    The simple fact is that the Manson case is not an ordinary case where an ordinary murder takes place for straightforward reasons by clear cut killers who are tried and end up in jail all in a straightforward fashion. It is packed to the gills with nuances and paradoxes that are actually really hard to explain to people that don’t see matters in ways that are finely nuanced. And back in 1980, Clara Livsey fell into that category.
    In certain ways, she reminds me of many females that are interested in this case, with an underlying hostility towards the ladykillers that isn’t there towards the guys. Her distaste for Susan’s conversion to Christ is palpable; indeed her distaste towards Atkins really comes across. I never picked up any empathy towards any of the females from Livsey nor any attempt to really understand the paradoxes or nuances afoot in the case.
    In “Taming the beast” Ed George mentions when she came to speak to Charlie and is of the opinion that Charlie did a number on her. Im not so sure…..
    That all said, it’s a fascinating book, well worth the read and a valuable addition to the TLB library. If possible, it should be read alongside Karlene Faith’s “The long prison journey of Leslie Van Houten” because between the two, I think there will be a clearer understanding of the Manson women and how they came to be who and how they were.

  4. Fred Bloggs says:

    Kitana says:
    order “The Manson File: Myth and Reality of an Outlaw Shaman” EVRYTHING is explained in that book

    While I would heartily recommend reading this 900+ page book if you can find it, nowhere close to “everything” is explained in it. In fact, Shreck’s bias and desire to scotch “Helter Skelter” as one of the motives is so strong that he ends up driving all over the map with theories, stories and ideas that leave those that have actually looked at the Charles Manson saga from a variety of angles, incredulous.
    The most embarrassing aspect is that a number of the things he comes out with are demonstrably untrue. For example, he states as a fact that the Beatles went to India in 1967 with Dennis Wilson searching for enlightenment from their guru. Actually, they went in 1968 and it was with Mike Love. Now, one might say, so what, it’s not important and it’s just a small thing. Well, aside from the fact that it is crucial in the chronology of the stories of both the Beatles and the Beach Boys, the importance is that it shows a pattern in relying on false information in order to bolster the case he is making. This happens throughout the book and meets its apogee in his theory of Tex Watson laying the groundwork for the drug dominated Cielo murders by going along with Bruce Davis and robbing at gunpoint {actually shooting him in the foot} a drug dealer called Joel Rostau…….the major problem being that when the robbery happened, Davis was out of America.
    If you need more proof of where the book is coming from and you’re prepared to believe that Rosemary LaBianca was a major dealer in LSD…..then read on.
    That said, it’s a tremendous book, just not for it’s truth and accuracy.

    Sorry for the off topic, Clara, if you ever read this !

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