Women and Psychiatry

Women and Psychiatry in BC History

This exhibit lists several academic publications and theses that have appeared over the past quarter-century on the subject of women, madness and psychiatry in British Columbia history. In recounting the experiences of women patients at the Public Hospital for the Insane (New Westminster) and the Provincial Mental Home, Essondale (Coquitlam) between the 1880s and 1970s, these writings offer a rare glimpse into the gendered world of the asylum over the course of the province’s first century. As part of a much wider national and global literature on women and the asylum – much of which is referenced in these writings – the authors provide background and shed light on the unique circumstances of the women who found themselves being released to the New Vista Home during the 1940s. In so doing, they chart the struggles that these ex-patients waged to survive the institution and find their way back from the hospital wards to an independent life in the community.

Journal Articles:

Chunn, Dorothy E. and Robert Menzies. “Gender, madness and crime: The reproduction of patriarchal and class relations in a psychiatric court clinic.” Journal of Human Justice 1:2 (Spring, 1990): 33-54

Kelm, Mary-Ellen. “‘The only place likely to do her any good’: The admission of women to British Columbia’s Provincial Hospital for the Insane.” BC Studies 96 (1992/3): 66-89. [Reproduced with the permission of BC Studies.]

Kelm, Mary-Ellen. “A life apart: The experience of women and the asylum practice of Charles Doherty at British Columbia’s Provincial Hospital for the Insane, 1905-1915.” Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 11 (1994): 335-355. [This link is provided with the permission of the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, which retains copyright.]

Menzies, Robert and Dorothy E. Chunn. “The gender politics of criminal insanity: ‘Order-in-council’ women in British Columbia, 1888-1950.” Histoire sociale/Social History 31:62 (1999): 241-279. [Originally published in Histoire sociale / Social History, 31, 62 (1998): 241-279.]

Graduate Theses:

Kelm, Mary-Ellen. Women and Families in the Asylum Practice of Charles Edward Doherty at the Provincial Hospital for the Insane, 1905-1915. M.A. Thesis, Simon Fraser University, 1990.