The Life of the Forgotten

ImageThe concept of nymphomania developed during the Victorian period. One-third of all patients in Victorian asylums suffered from this mental illness. It was described as an irresistible desire for sexual intercourse and a “female pathology of over-stimulated genitals”. Nymphomania included much more than a simple sexual drive, though, as it was also associated with the loss of sanity. It was described as an “illness of sexual energy levels gone awry, as well as the loss of control.” This was also a time that any husband, brother, or father could commit a woman against her will. All it took was two physicians to sign off on it, and no exam. Often women who were in the way were tucked away in asylums, and spent their lives there forgotten. There really was no humane treatment for mental illness, experiments were provided on the living against their will. This was still in practice in the 30’s and my Great Grandmother was one of these women, she was bi-polar before they knew what it was, committed in her late 20’s and left there for the rest of her life and only whispered about at family gatherings. It was a horrible life for the forgotten.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ripley Trout
    Mar 04, 2014 @ 06:25:19

    Dreadful but fascinating. Sorry to hear about your Great Grandmother. There used to be an old guy on a Meals-on-Wheels route I helped my Dad with as a kid and he had a such a stammer you’d hear him starting to say ‘Thanks’ from down the hall so as he’d be ready to say it when he opened the door. Other than that he seemed physically and mentally fine so I asked my Dad why he needed a meal brought to him. And my Dad said that the man had been put in an asylum as a kid because of his speech difficulties and had spent most of his life there and so had never learnt to fend for himself. Near goddamn broke my young heart did that.
    More directly related to your post though is some work by an artist that I used in a documentary I made about exorcisms in Ireland as her work dealt with the notion of ‘hysteria’ as a medical condition which was often interchangeable historically with ‘possession’. I can’t find her own website link but i found this short article that shows some of the images and has a bit about Breda herself http://lorrainelennoncs.blogspot.ie/2013/05/galway-city-one-day-project-review-i.html

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    • Dagmar Tully
      Mar 04, 2014 @ 17:00:30

      Thank you, I never knew her but my Grandmother was raised by her Aunt and never talked about it but I know that it affected her. And like so many family skeletons had a domino effect. It all really was heartbreaking for so many.
      Coming from a Catholic family (on my Grandmothers side)I have done some reading on the on hysteria vs possession through the ages so I am a little familiar with it. Thank you for sending me the link, I really enjoyed it and if you ever find the website I would love to see it.

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