When Charlotte Perkins Gilman collapsed with a “nervous disorder,” the physician she sought out for help was Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, the “greatest nerve specialist in the country…” When Gilman met him, in the eighteen eighties, he was at the height of his career, earning over sixty thousand dollars per year (the equivalent of almost in a million today’s dollars). His renown for the treatment of female nervous disorders had by this time led to a marked alteration of character. According to an otherwise fond biographer, his vanity “had become colossal. It was fed by torrents of adulation, incessant and exaggerated, every day, almost every hour.”
Gilman approached the great man with “utmost confidence.” A friend of her mother’s lent her one hundred dollars for the trip to Philadelphia and Mitchell’s treatment. In preparation, Gilman methodically wrote out a complete history of her case. She had observed, for example, that her sickness vanished when she was away from her home, her husband, and her child, and returned as soon as she came back to them. But Dr. Mitchell dismissed her prepared history as evidence of “self-conceit.” He did not want information from his patients; he wanted “complete obedience.”
Gilman quotes his prescription for her: “‘Live as domestic a life as possible. Have your child with you all the time.’ (Be it remarked that if I did but dress the baby it left me shaking and crying—certainly far from a healthy companionship for her, to say nothing of the effect on me.) ‘Lie down an hour after each meal. Have but two hours intellectual life a day. And never touch pen, brush or pencil as long as you live.’”
Gilman dutifully returned home and for some months attempted to follow Dr. Mitchell’s orders to the letter. The result, in her words, was —“I came perilously close to losing my mind. The mental agony grew so unbearable that I would sit blankly moving my head from side to side… I would crawl into remote closets and under beds—to hide from the grinding pressure of that distress.”
Finally, in a “moment of clear vision” Gilman understood the source of her illness: she did not want to be a wife; she wanted to be a writer and an activist. So, discarding S. Weir Mitchell’s prescription and divorcing her husband, she took off for California with her baby, her pen, her brush, and her pencil. But she never forgot Mitchell and his near-lethal “cure.” Three years after her recovery she wrote The Yellow Wallpaper, a fictionalized account of her own illness and descent into madness. If that story had any influence on S. Weir Mitchell’s method of treatment, she wrote after a long life of accomplishments, “I have not lived in vain.”
Barbara Ehrenreich & Deirdre English, For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts’ Advice to Women
New York Comic Con 2016 - it was absolutely amazing! I had so much fun! I’ve poked few Robins with my crowbar, met few Jon Snows (who knew nothing…) and hey, even got a photo with Dee Dee. Lucky, lucky Moi :)
Deidra & Laney Rob a Train.
It’s on Netflix and I know y'all got Netflix.
It is SO SO SO GOOD.
It features two kick ass female leads, two sisters who have to take care of each other and their brother and learn and grow in the process.
It’s written by a woman and directed by a woman.
It’s got Sasheer Zamata. (Which is reason enough for me to watch) but also Ashleigh Murray (JOSIE FROM RIVERDALE) oh and Arturo Castro aka Jaime from BROAD CITY.
It’s such a great film it’s beautifully shot and edited and is so sweet and funny and touching and heartbreaking but ultimately heartwarming in the best way.
Just go watch it. Now.