Our Mental Facilities 1800's project

February 16, 2014

The Staff and Doctors

Filed under: Uncategorized —— Roehr, Gabriella @ 12:39 pm

The treatment of mentally ill people started in the 1400s. It was mostly the clergy and other people of the church who took care of these people, but it was expensive so most mentally ill people were taken care of family or just abandoned. The staff in these hospitals were unsympathetic abusive people and they would usually beat the patients and then leave them to die. These hospitals weren’t built to help the patients it was basically a place that their family admit them to so they wouldnt have to deal with them. The people who were taking care of these individuals were not doctors, they were untrained people with no medical background who though chaining people to a wall would help them. The staff being uneducated would purge the patients, shock them with hot or cold water, and blood let them.

Then things started to look better. Philippe Pinel took control of La Bicetre in France, and applied the theory of kindness. Filth, noise, and abuse were eliminated quickly after patients were unchained, provided with sunny rooms, allowed to exercise freely on the asylum grounds, and were no longer treated like animals (Butcher 38)(1). The Quakers quickly caught on to this and applied this same treatment.

In the late 1800s this theory started to not work as well. One reason was because of racial differences between the staff and the patients, also if someone at the hospital quit their job it was hard to find someone to fill their spot because people weren’t teaching the theory of kindness and so it was hard to find qualified individuals who exercised this.The good thing is the conditions were improving and they were hiring actual nurses to do the job. Here is a job description that was given to nurses in 1887.

  1. Daily sweep and mop the floors of your ward, dust the patient’s furniture and windowsills.
  2. Maintain an even temperature in your ward by bringing in a scuttle of coal for the day’s business.
  3. Light is important to observe the patient’s condition. Therefore, each day fill kerosene lamps, clean chimneys and trim wicks. Wash the windows once a week.
  4. The nurse’s notes are important in aiding the physician’s work. Make your pens carefully you may whittle nibs to your individual taste.
  5. Each nurse on day duty will report every day at 7 a.m. and leave at 8 p.m. except on the Sabbath on which day you will be off from 12 Noon to 2 p.m.
  6. Graduate nurses in good standing with the director of nurses will be given an evening off each week for courting purposes or two evenings a week if you go regularly to church.
  7. Each nurse should lay aside from each payday a godly sum of her earnings for her benefits during her declining years so that she will not become a burden. For example, if you earn $30 a month you should set aside $15.
  8. Any nurse who smokes, uses liquor in any form, gets her hair done at a beauty shop, or frequents dance halls will give the director of nurses good reason to suspect her worth, intention and integrity.
  9. The nurse who performs her labors and serves her patients and doctors without fault for five years will be given an increase of five cents a day, providing there are no hospital debts outstanding. (job description from Athens hospital 1800 from source (2).)

Nurses who worked at hospitals like this could be in charge of taking care of 50 patients by themselves.




(1)”The History of Mental Illness: From “Skull Drills” to “Happy Pills”” RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2014.

(2) “About The Ridges – Nursing Staff of Long Ago.” About The Ridges – Nursing Staff of Long Ago. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.

Dorthea Dix

Filed under: Uncategorized —— Roehr, Gabriella @ 11:49 am

Dorthea Dix is an astounding individual. She wanted to do all she could for the better of other people. It all started when she was teaching Sunday School at East Cambridge Womens Jail. She was shocked to see how people in the jail were treated mainly the mentally ill.  She said “Some may say these things cannot be remedied, these furious maniacs are not to be raised from these base conditions. I know they are…I could give many examples. One such is a young woman who was for years ‘a raging maniac’ chained in a cage and whipped to control her acts and words. She was helped by a husband and wife who agreed to take care of her in their home and slowly she recovered her senses.”(Dorthea Dix 1)

mental hospital before

Mental hospital before

Mental Hospitals today www.gpb.org

Mental Hospitals today


So she began touring around parts of the, U.S particularly her home state Massachussets, examining the conditions and treatments of these mental hospitals. She reformed and built many asylums including the states  Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Maryland, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina.(2) Dorthea Dix even went to Europe to help establish proper mental hospitals there and even met with Pope Pius IX. Then, she returned to America in the midst of the Civil War. As if she already hadnt done enough to help, she of course volunteered to be a nurse. She eventually contracted malaria and spent her last years in a hospital that she had estabished in New Jersey.







(1)”Dorothea Dix.” Dorothea Dix. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014

(2)”Dorothea Dix Biography.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.


February 12, 2014

From Lobotomies to Spinning Therapy

Filed under: Uncategorized —— Roehr, Gabriella @ 10:57 am




The conditions and the treatment used for patients in a 1800’s mental hospital were pretty grim though they were more improved than those of the past centuries. The truly insane were viewed as a freak show and were put on display for the public’s enjoyments. Also, in certain hospitals patients were chained in basement cells, by being admitted to a mental hospital you were practically getting a life sentence in jail. Dr. Benjamin rush believed that mental problems were caused by irregular blood flow. So how they cured that would be treatments like blood letting, spinning therapy, and the tranquilizer chair. The tranquilizing chair was supposed to control the flow of blood by keeping your muscles still. Another tactic they used was performing lobotomies. Lobotomies were when the surgeon drilled holes in the patients head and tried to dismantle the nerves that express emotion. Freeman said,“that cutting certain nerves in the brain could eliminate excess emotion and stabilize a personality.” As investigators found out later this surgery did nothing to help the patients and was later banned in the mid 1900s.

Reading through all the articles I was truly shocked at how all these patients were treated. Also, how they thought some of these treatments could actually work. I mean shaking a patient until they get knocked unconcious is really going to cure them of their mental disabilities. Yeah sure….. The sad thing is most of these people didnt even have mental problems and they didnt even consent to have these treatments done. The pictures I used looked like they were truly taken from a horror movie.



(1)Ludovici, Kelly Erin. “Treatments in Mental Health: A Brief History.” Warner perspectives education blog. N.p., 10 october 2010. Web. 13 Feb 2014. <http://www.warner.rochester.edu

(2)”The Surprising History of the Lobotomy | World of Psychology.” Psych Central.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.

February 11, 2014

Why we chose this topic

Filed under: Uncategorized —— Adams, Chloe @ 11:22 am

We chose the topic Mental Health Care of the 1800’s, because we want to find the answer to our essential question, “How was the life in a 1800’s mental hospital?”

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