were not as common in the 18th century as the roll call at asylums might suggest. It was dangerous to be a wife in 18th century England. Your husband could clap you into a mad house whenever he wanted. It was his Legal right. And you had no recourse unless he relented. If a woman wanted a divorce, Parliament (literally) had to approve her petition. I am thinking about this because when Mary Wollstonecraft’s younger sister Eliza suffered from post partum depression Eliza’s brute of a husband could easily have had her thrown into an institution. No one would have blinked an eye. Except Mary, of course. No wonder she swept in and whisked her sister away –clandestinely, of course. Today we would applaud her actions. I certainly do. We have entire institutions devoted to the prevention of domestic abuse, complete with safe houses etc. But back then, Mary had to figure it all out on her own. And she was afraid. Would Eliza’s husband find them? Would he be violent if he did?