Date of Award
Program or Major
Master of Arts
Marion Girard Dorsey
“TAKEN TO VT. STATE HOSPITAL”:
LOCALIZING THE HISTORY OF MENTAL HEALTH INSTITUTIONS,
A STUDY OF THE VERMONT STATE ASYLUM FOR THE INSANE, 1891-1912
University of New Hampshire, December 2019
Often, the term “insane asylum,” invokes a macabre image of a crowded, outdated institution that does not so much care for its patients as secludes them from society. This popularized notion about care for the mentally ill in the many decades before contemporary medicine, is, as often times is the case, based in both fact and fiction. Institutional demands, such as overcrowding, forced many asylum administrators to organize and restructure various aspects of asylum life to meet this need. This study utilizes officer’s reports, institution accounts, and patient records to create a local history of the Vermont State Asylum for the Insane that builds an understanding of how architectural planning, patient categorization, and day-to-day operations all influenced the institution within its first twenty years. By doing so, two major conclusions can be drawn:1) that generalized histories of asylum building in the late- nineteenth and early- twentieth centuries are often reductive in nature. For example, in the later years of the nineteenth century, mental health movements such as moral management had increasingly come under scrutiny, and many states turned to other methods to address inherent institutional problems. 2) Despite this trend, Vermont continued to utilize moral management in new ways to address the same issues. To understand the institution’s approach, and avoid leaving them underrepresented in broader historical accounts, it is necessary to examine the Vermont State Asylum in the context of its own history.
Bassett, Alecia, "“Taken to Vt. State Hospital”: Localizing the History of Mental Health Institutions, A Study of the Vermont State Asylum for the Insane, 1891-1912" (2019). Master's Theses and Capstones. 1318.