Adventures in Digital History

Madwives: Schizophrenic Women in the 1950s

After our discussion on how schizophrenia was used against African Americans before, during, and after the Civil Rights Movement, I got to thinking about a book I saw in Simpson Library that covered a similar phenomenon in women. Madwives: Schizophrenic Women in the 1950s (1987) by Carrol Warren was a book I stumbled across while doing research. After looking into it a bit more, I thought it would be an interesting source to point out for this class. Warren is a Professor Emerita from the University of Kansas’s Sociology Department. Her book looks at the gender-stereotypical behavior and the institutionalization of married women in the 1950s. We discussed briefly in groups how schizophrenia was basically a catch-all term for mental disorders, and that women were just as likely to be diagnosed with it as African Americans. The same basic idea comes into play that anyone who does not follow the social norms of their time was mentally ill, and thus had to be hospitalized, was what caused this. I think this book would be interesting to read parts of alongside Metzl’s The Protest Psychosis, simply because both books would provide interesting takes of scholars outside of history. Like I mentioned before, Simpson Library has a copy of this book if anyone is interested!

Warren, Carol A. B. Madwives: Schizophrenic Women in the 1950s. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987.

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