1. Ten Days in a Madhouse is one of the most interesting accounts we have seen, however, it is also very different from the scholarly works we are used to seeing. What do you think of Nellie Bly's account? How credible would you say her work is? Do you think any parts may have been embellished by the editor to sell the story in newspapers?
2. Would you consider Bly's approach to uncovering the realities of the asylum to be ethical? I am not objecting to her exposing the truth of treatment in the asylum, however, is her method of feigning “madness” something we would consider ethical today? Why or why not?
3. It is a wonder Dorothea Dix never was confined to an asylum for her own direct actions and political activeness. We have discussed how this was common in her time, yet she remained an independent force of change, taking charge as a woman in a land of men.
Submitted by Lyndsey Clark. I pledge…
1. So far, Nellie Bly is one of the few people we have seen who witnesses asylum life first-hand. How else would you say that her book or research approach is unique?
2. What do you think makes Nellie Bly's interaction with other patients interesting?
Submitted by Erica Banks. I pledge…
1. What does it say that foreign women ended up in the asylum for seemingly nothing? What does this tell us about how insanity was diagnosed?
2. What was the purpose of reporters asking questions about patients? What does this say about the public’s engagement with mental health?
Submitted by Jack Kurz. I pledge…
1. Would a journalist be able to fool people and officials today as Nellie Bly did?
2. If people knew how bad Blackwell's Island was, why didn't anyone try to shut it down or fix it? Was it because they'd rather have the “insane” far away from society, did they not care, or both?
Submitted by Audrey Schroeder. I pledge…
1. How do you feel about the fact that Bly's affectation of an insane person is to have contrarian opinions and be a little garrulous? Was much of particularly female diagnosed insanity really about enforcing social/gender norms? (the answer probably won't surprise you)
2. In Chapter 14, Bly mentions a “perfectly sane” French woman named Josephine Despreau who was seemingly admitted to Blackwell's Island Insane Asylum because of her poor English and a momentary sickness. Was this a common occurrence in the 19th century? Was she really just a victim of prejudice, or is there more nuance to her story than was presented to Bly? (We could also make connections to the “Judge Duffy and the Police” chapter)
Submitted by Theron Gertz. I pledge…
Question 1: With patients suffering from beatings, malnourishment, and other abuses how many died at the Blackwell asylum as a result, and what would happen if there was a death?
Question 2: How easily could the press get access to asylums in general?
Submitted by Griffin Nameroff
1. Both Dix and Bly highlight that there are persons without mental illness being confined, what, if any, do the records say of these cases particularly those of immigrant women who could not communicate or understand their circumstance?
2. It would not be another forty years before women were given the right to vote, did a figure such as Dix gain political leverage for her plight and did this threaten her own chance of being placed in an asylum as a woman who did not follow the status quo.
- Janis Shurtleff
1. Nellie Bly paints a horrific picture of the degradation women suffered on Blackwell’s Island. Superintendent Dent states that it was in part due to lacking funds (197). How much do you believe this to be true?
2. Like New York City, Grob points out that other cities such as Philadelphia had problems with lack of funding contributing to understaffing and incompetence leading to poor quality asylum care (52). Do we see the same kinds of abuse in Philadelphia’s municipal asylum as Bly reports in New York’s Blackwell Island asylum, or were the staff in Blackwell’s Island exceptionally cruel?
Submitted by Chris O'Neill
1. On-Page 60-61*, Nellie Brown writes, “ With all bravery I felt a chill at the prospect of being shut up with a fellow-creature who was really insane.”. I want to know if vocabulary such as “fellow-creature” and other similar language was used to describe the mentally ill. Were people with mental illness during this period always dehumanized in this way, to be likened to an animal.
2. In Chapter six, Nellie Brown accounts the nurses talking all night and making noises. The next day the “handsome doctor” asked her if she heard voices at night. To which she replied, “Yes, there is so much talking I can not sleep.” Which was true, she could not sleep the night before because of the nurse’s loud chattering. I wonder if a simple misunderstanding like this could cause a person to be committed to a mental institution during this period. On that note, although Ms. Brown went through many steps to finally get declared “insane”, it seems that getting into the Asylum was too easy. I could see people how that could have lead to “sane” individuals being committed to Asylums.
*I read this zoomed in on my computer, so page numbers may not be correct.
Submitted by Jayden Jordan, I pledge.
1. This is more of a general question that isn't as specific to the readings, just to Dorothea Dix. She was such an advocate for those who were in asylums and struggling with mental health and cared deeply about the condition of the patients and asylums she visited, but did not seem to care for issues other than that as much. Since the issue of mental health and asylums are intersectional with other issues like gender, race, socioeconomic status, etc., why do you think she didn't care as much about those other things?
2. Why did the New York World want Nellie Bly to commit herself and then write about her experiences? Was it to prove the poor conditions? Or to just get an inside look into the lives of those at the asylum? Why at the time was a woman journalist entering the asylum; does this play into the commonly seen idea (in our past readings) that women could be committed for just about anything?
Submitted by Carson Berrier (I pledge…)
1. After learning about the different methods used for curing patients and the positive impacts of moral treatment in our past readings, this week's readings shows that quite the opposite was happening in the asylums. Was the mistreatment of patients and horrific living conditions the norm in these institutions?
2. How successful was Dix at gaining the buy-in from the states to reform their mental hospitals?
Submitted by Allison Love (I pledge…)
1) Did Dorothea Dix need to appeal the emotion of her audience in her appeal to pass legislation because she was a woman?
2) Did Nellie Bly need to be admitted into Blackwell’s Island in order to get a full understanding of the treatment of patients or could she have explored it from the outside? Dorothea Dix did not need to participate in “detective” reporting to gain and understanding of the treatment of patients, so why did Nellie? Submitted by Mallory Karnei (I pledge…)