Submission Date

7-20-2016

Document Type

Paper- Restricted to Campus Access

Department

English

Faculty Mentor

Rebecca Jaroff

Comments

Presented during the 18th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 22, 2016 at Ursinus College.

Project Description

My research examines the written work of several middle- and upper-class Victorian women who underwent now-condemned treatments for their nervous conditions, otherwise known as “hysteria.” Having nearly lost her sanity after being subjected to “the rest cure,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman published her semi-autobiographical short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” in order to educate her doctor on the treatment’s flaws. Using the work of other former patients such as activist Elizabeth Packard, I push back against the assumption that Charlotte Perkins Gilman was the only “hysterical” woman who used writing to protest the treatment she received from doctors, and I argue that these women’s accounts were a pivotal step in the medical community’s disavowal of the female hysteria diagnosis and the treatments that accompanied it.

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