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Development of Mental Asylums from 1800-late 1800s

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Karen Zamora

on 14 April 2015

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Transcript of Development of Mental Asylums from 1800-late 1800s

In 1860, Elizabeth Packard was wrongfully sent to an asylum in Illinois by her religiously strict husband because she did not agree with what he preached and voiced her disagreements in public. Deprived of a home, her children and her family and friends, Elizabeth was released from the mental institutions after carefully being observed and deemed mentally fit. Upon returning to her home, her husband jailed her and did not allow her to do anything or see anyone, including her own children. Fearing for her safety, she sought help from and friend and was presented before a court. After a lengthy court trial, Elizabeth was able to divorce her husband. Her husband took the kids and left Elizabeth penniless. She wrote a memoir explaining the unjust treatment she received not only from her husband but also from the doctors at the asylum. With this she was able to become financially independent and was able to draw light to the inhumane treatment given in asylums. She began a reform called the "Packard Law" which changed the unjustful way women were forced into asylums by the spouse or family.
In 1843, Dorothea Dix wrote a report to the Legislature of Massachusetts to petition a change for the idiots at asylums. She took two years to investigate and see for herself the treatment these poor souls had to endure. She described in vivid details some of the heinous tortures the patients were put through like being put in cages, closets, stalls, and pens. Dix brought attention to such social atrocity and it is significant because during these times women did not have a say in anything specially in politics.
In the 19th century, the number of asylums across United States was steadily increasing in numbers. The asylums were funded by tax paying citizens and at first were viewed as a places of hope and pride for those who were insane and need to be cured from "their lack of faith" or "idiocy". Doctors deeply believed that careful planning of the asylum might even cure a disease. Because there was overcrowding of most mental institutions, after the mid-1800s, architects began to design a more friendly, positive environment for the patients to help with their treatment. It took some time and research for doctors to realize that their inhumane treatment and negative attitude towards the mentally ill was wrong and was not helping patients get better. Until 1866 when the Friends Asylum in Frankford opened its door did people actually began to believe that a caring disciplined atmosphere can help cure and soothe the mentally ill.
Edward Jarvis, a famous physician-psychiatrist in 1854 was given a team to survey the state of Massachusetts to find out how many lunatics and idiots were among society. He was commissioned by the Commission on Lunacy. His findings were that people who had been institutionalized were incurable of their insanity. Some of the factors he analyzed were socioeconomic status, gender and religion. He emphasized that religion was a powerful factors that governed everyday life and the morality of a person. Jarvis noticed that the Worcester State Lunatic Asylum used questionable methods when caring for their patients. He described the treatment as inhumane and the environment as depressing, one in which patients could not recuperate.
"Modern Persecution, Or, Insane Asylums Unveiled:" - Elizabeth Packard
"I Tell What I Have Seen" -Dorothea Dix
"Need and Demand for Mental Health Care: Massachusetts 1854"- John M. Hunter
"On Reforming the 'Fallen' and Beyond:" Lu Ann De Cunzo (Secondary Source)
"The Linear Plan for Insane Asylum in the United States Before 1866"- Carla Yanni
In 1807 an organization by the name of The Magdalen Society of Philadelphia was composed of various religious leaders. The Magdalen Society was created with the intent to reform prostitutes and "wayward" girls. Religious leaders saw women who were open about their sexuality as someone who was robbed of their innocence and needed guidance to be god-fearing submissive wives and mothers. The girls that were institutionalized in this asylum were isolated from society, confined, and observed. Very early in the century the definition of insane was not legally or scientifically proven. The word insane was a term used mostly by religious people to describe a women who was not following the moral standards set by the church.
Mental Institutions in the U.S.A
In the early 1800s till late 1800s, mental institutions were not regulated by any federal or state laws. The lack of regulations contributed to the overflow of patients in these asylums. It is to be noted that several secondary sources and two primary sources confirm that the patients were mostly women who were deemed dangerous to the moral standards of society. Those in charge of admitting and caring for the patients were religious figures who believed that people who dared go against their teachings were insane and needed to be disciplined to be submissive and god-fearing. Religious leaders believed that being a sexually active led to insanity and insanity led to poverty . The cures that were used included isolation, beating, bleeding, and blistering. Patients were also chained naked in small cages for long periods of time. It wasn't until the late 1800s that people, specifically women like Dorothea Dix and Elizabeth Packard, decided to voice their opinion against the harsh inhumane treatment the mentally ill and the not-really-mentally ill people were receiving in these mental institutions.
Eastern State Hospital - Williamsburg, VA (1773)
Friends Hospital- Philadelphia, Penn. (1817)
Worcester State Lunatic Asylum- Worcester,MA (1833)
Eastern Lunatic Asylum- Lexington, KY (1824).
Names of Asylums
Professor of Anthropology and Early American Culture at the University of Delaware. Currently working in the Anthropology department at the University of Delaware, her main focus is Material Culture Studies and Archeology. Another area of interest in "19th century American institutional communities". De Cunzo has had several works published including a monograph in the International Journal of Historical Archeology and Landscape Archeology. De Cunzo has also appeared in People magazine and is currently directing archeological research in New Castle and Delaware's Piedmont.
Lu Ann De Cunzo
Dorothea Dix was an important person who greatly influenced the movement for a more humane treatment for the mentally ill. She went to various asylums in the course of two years an was able to see first hand how badly the mentally ill were treated. She calls the government to action by writing a report to the Massachusetts Legislature, a very moving report that began a reformation.
Dorothea Dix
Development of Mental Asylums from 1800-late 1800s
Dr. John M. Hunter is a professor at Michigan State University. He works in the Department of Geography and currently holds a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Reading in England. His focus as a professor is geography, African studies, and Institute of International Health. He is a University Distinguished Professor Emeritus since 1995 and has worked in various Universities and colleges. Dr. Hunter has published a significant amount of articles on 19th century mental health and various other topics.
John M. Hunter
A professor at Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Yanni obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Her focus is centered on the history of architecture in Europe and the United States from the 19th century to the present. Dr. Yanni has published various articles on well recognized Architecture journals like the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. Dr. Yanni is currently researching the architecture of insane asylums and the relationship to Victorian psychiatry.
Carla Yanni
Elizabeth Packard
What I learned from this research was that back in the 19th century, religious leaders were very observant and strict specially with young women. Religion was a big part of society and anything decided was most likely based on religious grounds. That is why when it came to diagnosing a mentally unstable person they used a religious criteria instead of a medical scientific one. Back then to convince a person that you are not mentally unstable would be extremely difficult, close to impossible much less a court room full of god-fearing men. I use to believe that protesting against something that is morally wrong would not be so hard, all you have to do is convince people and show them that what they believe and act upon is wrong. But when you don't have a voice, and have absolutely no credibility, it's about the hardest thing to do. Reading about cruelty in a textbook or a secondary source does not have as much impact as it does when I read it from a primary source. When I read Elizabeth Packard's book, tears came to my eyes knowing she was incapacitated. She was forced to be in a mental institution, did not matter how much she pleaded and said she wasn't mentally ill, nobody believed her. Having everything taken away from you must have been painful and unbearable. But it is also admirable because she won the court case. To her personally it didn't seem much like a victory, she lost her children, her home, everything. But thanks to that she was able to help the reformation movement with the Packard Laws, something that as I women I have to come to realize is an essential right. Women like Elizabeth and Dorothea Dix make me believe that it might take effort but change for a better future is possible.
Personal Reflection
De Cunzo, Lu. "On Reforming the 'Fallen' and Beyond: Transforming
Continuity at the Magdalen Society of Philadelphia, 1845-1916."
International Journal of Historical Archeology 5.1
(2001): 19-43. Print.
Dix, Dorothea. ""
I Tell What I Have Seen
"- The Reports of Asylum Reformer
Dorothea Dix."
American Journal Of Public Health
. American Journal of Public Health 2006, n.d. Web, 29 Mar. 2015.
Hunter, John M. " Need and Demand for Mental Health Care:
Massachusetts 1854. "
The Geographical Review 77
(1987): 139. Web.
Packard, Elizabeth. "Modern Persecution, Or, Insane Asylums Unveiled: As
Demonstrated by the Report of the Investigating Committee of the Legislature of Illinois.
"Modern Persecution, Or, Insane Asylums Unveiled: As Demonstrated by the Report of the Investigating Committee of the Legislature of Illinois"
, Authoress, n.d. Web 29. Mar. 2015
Yanni, Carla. "The Linear Plan for Insane Asylums in the United States before 1866. "
Journal of
the Society of Architectural Historians 62.1
(2003): 24-49. Web.
Comparing Primary and Secondary Sources
Religious differences were often the cause for "insanity"
The structure of the building could help with the treatment of the mentally ill- Yanni
Part of the treatment given to the patients in asylums included some form of harsh isolation or confinement in a small space.
Specific doctors, architects mentioned- Yanni, Packard, De Cunzo, Hunter.
Women were the most admitted gender because of sexuality or moral indiscretions
Poverty, background, race and culture affect a person's insanity- Hunter
Naming a religious organization or associations like the Magdalen Association, or the Commission on Lunacy- Hunter, De Cunzo
By: Karen C. Zamora
HIST 1013.02
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