In last week’s episode of In Our Time, Melvyn Bragg hosted a discussion on the history of history.
From ancient epics to medieval hagiographies and modern deconstructions, historians have endlessly chronicled, surveyed and analysed the great many things that keep happening, declaring some of them good and some of them bad.
But the writing of history always illuminates two periods—the one history is written about and the one it is written in. And to look at how the writing of history has changed is to examine the way successive ages have understood their world. In short, there is a history to history.
Unfortunately, the panel focuses on the Ancients for too long and gets bogged down in details unrelated to the larger theme. But then they skip ahead and discuss feminist history. Although they miss a bunch of stuff in between, what they do end up talking about is really interesting.
Other freely available episodes from the BBC archives, varying on this theme, include: Continue reading BBC’s In Our Time on Historiography
In a recent issue of History of Psychology, 11(3), Michael Pettit (pictured right) contributed a new chapter to the history of women in psychology.
Amy E. Tanner pursued a series of ventures on the margins of the discipline of psychology from 1895 through the 1910s. As a midwesterner and a woman, she found herself denied opportunities at both research universities and elite women’s colleges, spending the most visible phase of her career as G. Stanley Hall’s assistant at Clark University. A narrative of Tanner’s life furnishes more than a glimpse at the challenges faced by women scholars in the past. As an investigator engaged with the debate over the mental variability of the sexes, an active class passer in the name of social reform, and a spiritualist debunker, her broad interests illuminate how broadly the proper scope of the new psychology could be constituted. Throughout her writing, Tanner offered an embedded, situated account of knowledge production.
AHP has previously posted several notes about the history of women in psychology. For those interested in this topic specifically, we have created a “tag” that organizes like stories into a single thread: “women.” (This will automatically update every time a new article is posted with that tag.) We have also recently added the Division 35 history page, Society for the Psychology of Women Heritage Site, to our links (see the sidebar under “Resources”).
If you have suggestions for additional resources that other readers may find useful, please contribute these thoughts below as a comment. (Click here to do so now.)
In a recent issue of History of Education, 37(5), Angela Davis examines the post-Depression debates regarding the proper behaviour of mothers and, more specifically, the preparation of young girls to take on that role.
This article investigates how girls were educated about sex, pregnancy and childbirth during the years 1930 to 1970. Based on the results of 92 oral-history interviews with Oxfordshire women, it explores how national debates surrounding sex education influenced what girls in Oxfordshire were taught. In addition, it examines how successful the women themselves thought this education had been in equipping them for maternity and whether they believed women could indeed be educated for motherhood.
The result is a fascinating look at the contexts in which many of the contemporary theories of mothering have emerged. (Related readings are provided below the fold.) Continue reading Preparing girls for motherhood, c.1930-1970
In a recent issue of Social History of Medicine, 21(2), Brendan D. Kelly reports the findings of his examination of the case records for all women admitted to Dublin’s Central Criminal Lunatic Asylum between 1910 and 1948.
The majority of women were Roman Catholic (85.4 per cent) and had a mean age of 36.4 years. The majority were convicted of a crime (85.7 per cent), of whom 75.0 per cent were convicted of killing, most commonly child-killing. The majority of women detained ‘at the Lord Lieutenant’s Pleasure’ (indefinitely) were convicted of murder (51.7 per cent), assault (20.7 per cent) or infanticide (13.8 per cent); mean duration of detention was 5.6 years. The most common diagnoses were ‘mania’ or ‘delusional insanity’ (38.1 per cent) and ‘melancholia’ (23.8 per cent); 7.1 per cent were considered ‘sane’. Following their detention, 28.1 per cent of women were transferred to district asylums and the remainder were released under various different circumstances. In common with similar studies from other countries, these data demonstrate that the fate of these women was largely determined by a combination of societal, legal and medical circumstances, as evidenced by the socio-economic profile of women admitted and changes in admission patterns following the introduction of the Mental Treatment Act 1945. The role of other factors (such as religion) in determining their fate merits further study.
To help build on Kelly’s findings, a selection of readings on “religion and madness” are provided below the fold. Continue reading Female Forensic Committal in Ireland, 1910–1948
In the latest issue of Social History of Medicine, 21(2), Elizabeth Siegel Watkins explores why “male menopause” vanished from medical discourse in the 1950s.
This disappearance offers an interesting case study of how and why diagnoses and therapies fall in and out of favour. For this particular set of symptoms, psychiatry replaced endocrinology as the explanatory framework, and tranquilisers replaced hormones as the preferred therapy. But medical fashion was not the only factor determining diagnosis and treatment. In the 1950s, when the dominant model of masculinity clearly differentiated men from women, male patients and their male physicians alike balked at the idea that men could suffer from what seemed like a woman’s problem, namely, menopause. The diagnosis of a stress-induced condition fitted better with the image of the hardworking breadwinning male, especially among middle-aged men who might also have worried about becoming superannuated. Cultural conceptions of masculinity and ageing figured significantly in the framing of this condition. (Free PDF here.)
This article builds on Watkins’ previous work on the continued popularity of “male menopause” as a folk psychological notion despite its disappearance from the medical literature. (Free PDF here.)
The British Psychological Society (BPS) Research Digest Blog has alerted me to a recent interview with novelist Lisa Appignanesi on BBC Radio 4’S program “Start the Week” where Appignanesi discusses her recent book “Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from1800 to the Present.”
“Mad, Bad and Sad” discusses the history of the relationships between female patients and their male doctors. According to a review of the book in The Telegraph:
“This sweeping, humane and formidably researched study is an entertaining account of all human sadness, badness and madness in Western Europe and North America since the late 18th century. Within this framework, Appignanesi uses her considerable skill as a novelist to tell the stories of the founding fathers of psychiatry, as well as those of the human species to whom psychiatry has devoted so much attention and brought so much oppression: women.”
Continue reading “A history of women and the mind doctors”
The most recent issue of the The Psychologist, the flagship journal of the British Psychological Society, marked the launch of a new historical column, “Looking Back,” edited by Julie Perks of Staffordshire University.
The first of the new columns, by Elizabeth Valentine of Royal Holloway, University of London, focuses on the life and career of Nellie Carey, a student of Charles Spearman’s at University College London during the 1910s. In a series of articles in the British Journal of Psychology between 1914 and 1916 Carey explored aspects of color perception, mental imagery, school subjects, and intelligence. She abruptly withdrew from UCL in 1920 and disappeared from the membership roles of the BPS in 1925. Valentine’s article explores what became of so promising a student. Continue reading The “Other Woman” of British Psychology