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1. In Women of the Asylum, Geller and Harris mention the idea of the True Woman as the prevailing mindset of both men and women of this time period. This idea presents the image of the passive and submissive wife that is dependent upon her husband for survival, from an economic standpoint and for power within the house and/or marriage. These women were meant to be mothers, yet it was this factor that led to so many women being psychologically imprisoned. Should a woman speak up, should she make suggestions, be independent, or do anything that was considered “abnormal” their husbands, brothers, and/or fathers would have them committed. However, this entire idea seems hypocritical to me. How can a woman be dependent if she is expected to raise children, take care of the home, take care of her husband, etc.? Doesn't that demonstrate a form of independence? I'd like to discuss this mindset some more in class, especially since we are now aware so many women were wrongfully committed.

2. In this time period women are seen as less than men because they are women, meaning they are “weak”, “feeble”, and cannot “process” or “comprehend” things in the ways men can. Yet when women express these emotions they are confined to mental institutions. There's just no winning when it comes to being a woman! Unless you're someone like Dorothea Dix who has the money to “take care” of yourself, then you (as a woman) are pretty much between a rock and a hard place! (Apologies for the mini-rant.)

3. How does the idea of the True Woman conflict with that of the New Woman? Discuss changes in thought, examples, and problems that come with it.

Submitted by Lyndsey Clark. I pledge…

1. Whilst reading Women of the Asylum, I couldn't help but notice the continuous abuse and oppression that the selected women had to face, which brings me to the question; do you think the treatment alone towards someone with a mental illness could eventually cause them to snap?

2. In terms of “snap”, I really want to discuss a book that I had read during my time at UMWs Summer Transition Program; Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Sadaawi.

Submitted by Erica Banks. I pledge….

1. Why did the APA not care about these abused women during a conference in the 1970s?

2. Why wouldn't the community help Packard when she obviously needed help and why did they suggest breaking her window if that was going to make her seem “insane?”

Submitted by Audrey Schroeder. I pledge…

1.One of the women described asylums as a boarding school for wealthy girls. What does this say about how America viewed the mental health system compared to what the system really looked like? Where do you think people got these perceptions?

2. What do you think caused the female nurses working in the asylums to not be more understanding of the plight of the women being institutionalized? Why were they not able to sympathize with the women who were being unfairly “imprisoned”? Some proposed a female asylum run by all women but would gender have any effect on the poor treatment of patients?

Submitted by Jack Kurz

1. In the foreword of American Women of the Asylum, Phyllis Chesler tells the story of how she was laughed at during a convention hosted by the APA for proposing a million dollars of reparations for the women who the psychiatric system had historically abused. Was her “joke” funny? Or is this, like the argument for reparations for the descendants of slaves, worth talking about and seriously discussing?

2. With what similarities and differences do you think our modern psychiatric system would have helped the women highlighted in this book?

3. Likewise, do you think anyone could have seemed sane after remaining in an asylum like the ones this book discusses? How quickly do you think you (yes, you) would “last”?

Submitted by Theron Gertz. I pledge…

Question 1: Why were some women who were accused of crimes sent to asylums instead of prisons? Also, how many women were sent to prisons compared to asylums? Was it better to be sent to prison or an asylum?

Question 2: How large was the dissent against treatments used on women in the medical community during the time?

Submitted by Griffin Nameroff

1. Charlotte Perkins Gilman suffered from what she called “nervous prostration,” which she states was a previously unknown disease (Geller and Harris, 163). Her symptoms sound like what is called post-partum depression these days. If in fact that’s what it was, is it like schizophrenia, a product of modern civilization?

2. How much of an impact did the story of Elizabeth Packard have upon how women were treated in asylums in America? For example, Tirzah Shedd, committed in 1865, makes use of the Packard-inspired Protection of Personal Liberty law to enjoy greater liberties in the asylum (Geller and Harris, 79-85). Yet, we still see women subjected to horrendous conditions right on through the 1880s in other accounts of Geller and Harris’ book.

Submitted by Chris O'Neill

1. The mid-to-late 19th century was steeply divided by gender with insanity and morality being intertwined with sexuality, apart from the social history that saw men as the more “sexually driven” than women, why was there not more exploration of male reproductive systems as causes for mental illness especially with the push from the American Female Moral Reform Society?

2. Religious differences were cited as the reason for many of these women being committed, what, if any, were the doctor’s reasonings for “treating” these women?

-Janis Shurtleff

1) In the foreword of Women of the Asylum written by Phyllis Chesler, she mentions that the women in the asylum, “feared, correctly,” that they would go mad because of the brutality of existing in that space. (xiii) Was this a similar experience that men in the asylum had? Or was this thought just continuing to play into the thought that women were “more susceptible” to madness and admittance to asylums (as we've seen in past readings).

2) The authors noted that with the physical expansion of westward migration, the expansion of “acceptable female behavior” was expanded at the same time (20). Other events changed the role that women had in society as well. As what was accepted grew, do we think that this new view/role of women translated into a higher or lower admission of women into asylums?

Submitted by Carson Berrier (I pledge…)

Several women were committed by their husbands and family for having different religious beliefs than them. Was there a religious revival going on that was causing this heated reaction?

What impact did the women's suffrage movement have on asylum care? Were the superintendents open to the idea of patient rights and reform?

Submitted by Allison Love (I pledge…)

1) In the case of Elizabeth Packard, with her husband essentially permitting her kidnapping and then placing her in an asylum with little to no intention to remove her, could he be seen as insane? He irrationally admitted his wife, who had bore 6 of his children, into an insane asylum on the basis of differing beliefs. To add to that, he was legally not allowed to admit her again but still attempted to. How was he able to do all of that without himself being questioned for mental stability?

2) When women were sent to the insane asylum, as seen with both Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Stone’s account, they were not told they were in an insane asylum. While Nellie knew where she was, Elizabeth did not. Why were they not told where they were? Did the physicians worry that them knowing would create backlash? Was this consistent with all admitted patients and not just women?

Submitted by Mallory Karnei (I pledge…)

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