Women of the Asylum: Voices from Behind the Walls, 1840-1945

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9780385474238: Women of the Asylum: Voices from Behind the Walls, 1840-1945

The 26 women who tell their stories here were incarcerated against their will, often by male family members, for holding views or behaving in ways that deviated from the norms of their day. The authors' accompanying history of both societal and psychiatric standards for women reveals the degree to which the prevailing societal conventions could reinforce the perception that these women were "mad".

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From the Publisher:

Twenty-six firsthand accounts that tell the terrifying history of women placed in psychiatric institutions, most often against their will, revealing the realities of their lives in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

I had been an inmate of the asylum about nine months, and....walking down the hall to my room, opened the door, and there stood my husband. I think, for a moment or so, I never was so happy. It was his first visit to me....So he took the chair I offered him, drew it closely up to mine, and gazing into my eyes, said: "Were you insane when you were married?" Not one single, little word of kindness or gesture of tenderness, not the shadow of a greeting; simply this cruel, calculating question. Evidently, he had even then formed the determination that I should never leave that asylum alive. I did not then think this, however, and answered, more assuredly, "I was not insane when we were married." I have changed my opinion since then, materially, and willingly admit I was insane, and my most pronounced symptom was that I married him.

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