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mad women

October 20, 2009

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?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 20, 2009 5:26 pm

    I learn so much from reading your blog. I feel like I’m still in one of your classes, which isn’t a problem. I miss them.

  2. Ruth permalink
    October 20, 2009 5:54 pm

    I would adore to be in one of your classes.

  3. October 20, 2009 6:29 pm

    Thanks you guys. Ash, that is especially nice to hear as I am suffering over my eng comp class. ARGH. And Ruth I would love to study with you. So there!

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