PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bulltot
Light from the computer screen filled Campbell’s glasses, masking his eyes. ‘When might your great-grandmother have been admitted to Northmead?’
Sally handed him the details, the paper damp from her hands. Annie Giddings. DOB 4th January 1886. Last seen Bonfire Night 1903.
Campbell hummed tunelessly. ‘Found her!’ he said. ‘Admitted 25th November 1903 for falling into criminal conversations with low men. Hmm … various treatments … Ah! Failing to recover her wits, a hysterectomy was performed.’
The printer clicked and whirred a copy of Annie’s records. Sally clenched and unclenched her fists, relieved Northmead was a ruin so she wouldn’t have to burn it down.
I saw the photo and though ‘insane asylum’ then did a search for 19th century teatments for women with mental health problems. Some doctors advocated gynaecological surgery such as relocating the uterus and hysterectomy. Read more here.
Read more on the appalling Victorian treatment of ‘fallen women’ and on the foundling hospitals where many were forced to leave their offspring here (this article is also where I found the euphemism ‘criminal conversation’).
As a side note, 25th November is Saint Catherine of Alexandria’s feast day. Amongst other things she is the patron saint of spinsters.