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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.
Keleher, Phoebe R., "Out at Last: The Hysterical Woman's Recovery Through Writing" (2016). English Summer Fellows. 5.
Available to Ursinus community only.
Presented during the 18th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 22, 2016 at Ursinus College.