“Mad, Bad, and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors” provides an overview of the theories of maternal and child health care experts from 1800 to the present. The book is written in 2009 but the contents of the book were also transformed into an exhibition at the Freud Museum in London which ran from 10 October 2013 – 2 February 2014.
Lisa Appignanesi charts a story from the days when the mad were considered possessed to our own century when the official psychiatric manual lists some 350 mental disorders. Women play a key role here, both as patients—among them Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Marilyn Monroe—and as therapists.
Insanity has historically been defined by comparing a subject’s behavior to what is considered “normal” within any social context. Rather than placing the blame for unjust institutionalization on an oppressive patriarchy, the author points out that women were, and are, often complicit in the creation and social enforcement of oppressive social norms. Girls throughout Western civilization are suffering from conditions like anorexia, PTSD, clinical depression and suicidal tendencies in greater numbers than ever before.
“[A work of] wit, wisdom and richness. . . . A grand tour of derangement, from matricide to anorexia.” —John Leonard, Harper’s