Title

Unfit mothers in the archive: female insanity in twentieth century, Victorian Mental Institutions

Document Type

Presentation

Publication details

Watts, A 2014, 'Unfit mothers in the archive: female insanity in twentieth century, Victorian Mental Institutions', paper presented to Conflict in History: The Australian Historical Association 33rd Annual Conference, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Brisbane, Qld., 7-11 July.

Abstract

This paper examines how mothers’ insanity was constructed in Victoria, Australia, in an early twentieth century context. It is based on admission books, annual reports of the Inspector-General of the Insane and thirty-one women’s mental patient files, diagnosed with both ‘puerperal insanity’ and childbirth related ailments. The nineteenth century legacies that the womb affected women’s mental states still held currency, when mothers were committed with ‘puerperal insanity’ in the inter-war period, despite the term was no longer in use elsewhere. This work breaks new ground in Australian scholarship as no other work has investigated ‘puerperal insanity’ in the Australian context, or in the early twentieth century.

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