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The Rest Cure

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Trent Nobles

on 5 October 2013

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Transcript of The Rest Cure

Woolf and Gilman's Response
to the Rest Cure

Gilman's Response
Gilman's response to the rest cure was also a negative one. Her experience was a terrible one and towards the end of her life, she wrote, " I went home and obeyed those directions for some three months, and came so near the borderline of utter mental ruin that I could see over," (Gilman). After seeing the negative effect the treatment had on her, she went back to work immediately and only then did she begin to see improvements in her mental state of being.
Mitchell, an influential American neurologist, established this method of treatment for people affected with mental illnesses such as hysteria, neurasthenia and other nervous illnesses
The Rest Cure was created by Dr. Silas Weir Mitchel in the late 1800s.
The Rest Cure
"The rest cure usually lasted six to eight weeks. It involved isolation from friends and family. It also enforced bed rest, and nearly constant feeding on a fatty, milk-based diet. Patients were force-fed if necessary - effectively reduced to the dependency of an infant. Nurses cleaned and fed them, and turned them over in bed. Doctors used massage and electrotherapy to maintain muscle tone. Patients were sometimes prohibited from talking, reading, writing and even sewing."
Dr. Mitchel prescribed the rest cure to Virginia Woolf for what is know today as Bipolar Disorder. The rest cure is the complete opposite treatment needed by someone suffering from this mental instability.
Virginia Woolf
"For many years I suffered from a severe and continuous nervous breakdown tending to melancholia--and beyond. During about the third year of this trouble I went, in devout faith and some faint stir of hope, to a noted specialist in nervous diseases, the best known in the country. This wise man put me to bed and applied the rest cure" -Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Perkins was also prescribed the Rest Cure and it nearly drove her completely mad.
Woolf's Response
Woolf, the author of, "Mrs. Dalloway" was not very fond of the treatment and it motivated her in some of her future writings. Woolf used her book “ Mrs. Dalloway” to not only show, but to tell just how she felt. In her novel, she even creates a character, a famous psychiatrist named Sir William Bradshaw. Silas, as stated early, was not only an influential physician, but also the inventor of the “Rest Cure.” She writes, "We know nothing about the nervous system, the human brain- a doctor loses his sense of proportion, as a doctor, he fails.” As to addressing his cure she states, "you invoke proportion; order rest in bed; rest in solitude; silence and rest; rest without friends, without books, without messages; six months rest; until a man who went in weighing seven stone six comes out weighing twelve."
"The Yellow Wallpaper"
Gilman used the motivation she gained from the negative effects the rest cure had on her to create, "The Yellow Wallpaper," to show how truly torturous the treatment was for most women.
"Being naturally moved to rejoicing by this narrow escape, I wrote The Yellow Wallpaper, with its embellishments and additions, to carry out the ideal (I never had hallucinations or objections to my mural decorations) and sent a copy to the physician who so nearly drove me mad. He never acknowledged it." -Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Woolf and Gilman were both negatively effected by the rest cure. After they miraculously recovered, they both decided to use their writing skills to shed a light on this terrible treatment.
The Rest Cure played a big role in each woman's career.
Dr. Mitchel's Response
Gilman, "sent a copy to to the physician who so nearly drove [her] mad," (Gilman) But he never responded. However, many years later, "[Gilman] was told that the great specialist had admitted to friends of his that he had altered his treatment of neurasthenia since reading The Yellow Wallpaper," (Gilman)
Works Cited
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "Gilman, Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper." Gilman, Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper. The Forerunner, n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2013.

Stiles, Anne. “The Rest Cure, 1873-1925.” BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History. Ed. Dino Franco Felluga. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net. Web. 03 Oct. 2013.

Orr, Douglass. Virginia Woolf’s Illnesses. Ed. Wayne Chapman. Clemson, SC: Clemson U Digital P, 2004. Web. 03 Oct. 2013.

"Science Museum. Brought to Life: Exploring the History of Medicine." Rest Cure. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2013.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1981. Print.
By Trent Nobles and Christian Manuel
Full transcript