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Broadmoor Women (Paperback)

Tales from Britain's First Criminal Lunatic Asylum

True Crime P&S History Women of History Victorian Era 19th Century

By Kim Thomas
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 192
Illustrations: 20 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526794260
Published: 12th April 2022

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Broadmoor, Britain’s first asylum for criminal lunatics, was founded in 1863. In the first years of its existence, one in five patients was female. Most had been tried for terrible crimes and sent to Broadmoor after being found not guilty by virtue of insanity. Many had murdered their own children, while others had killed husbands or other family members.

Drawing on Broadmoor’s rich archive, this book tells the story of seven of those women, ranging from a farmer’s daughter in her 20s who shot dead her own mother to a middle-class housewife who drowned her baby daughter. Their moving stories give a glimpse into what nineteenth-century life was like for ordinary women, often struggling with poverty, domestic abuse and repeated childbearing. For some, Broadmoor, with its regime of plain food, fresh air and garden walks, was a respite from the hardships of their previous life. Others were desperate to return to their families.

All but one of the women whose stories are recounted in this book recovered and were released. Their bout of insanity was temporary. Yet the causes of their condition were poorly understood and the treatment rudimentary. As well as providing an in-depth look at the lives of women in Victorian England, the book offers a fascinating insight into the medical profession’s emerging understanding of the causes and treatment of mental illness.

This was a great book to learn another side of an institution we have all heard so much about. I also loved the fact we got a detailed insight to the women who stayed there and their reasonings for doing what they did, justified or not.

NetGalley, Megan Partington

As featured in

Who Do You Think You Are

This is both a fascinating book and a sad one because it is basically a book about women who have fallen on hard times physically, mentally and in terms of income. In most cases are women who are having to live in desperate situations with no or little support from anyone, which is why they have reached this conclusion in that they haven’t been able to cope and so have now committed terrible crimes. The author Kim Thomas has done a great job of writing this book and has shown in her writing sympathy and understanding of the positions of these women.

The book tells the story of eight women all have committed serious crimes against people and children, but when you read the stories they have had no help or support from society, families or partners. If it was in today’s lifetime, these women would surely be seen as being mentally ill and needing help not cast into the hard life of a Broadmoor prison where they still wouldn’t get the help they needed. A really good book in how it was written but like I said at the start a very sad one.

Read the full review here

The History Fella

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a story about a criminal mental institution in the Victorian era and how women were so poorly treated. Seeing what these women went through in their daily lives gives you a peek into why they might have actually gone insane and ended up in Broadmoor. Very interesting read!

NetGalley, Sarah Johnson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Kim Thomas' book focussing on the treatment of women with mental illnesses to the point where they kill is a fascinating read. The views of how these women were treated through the ages were poignant and sad. So much was misunderstood about post natal depression, thank goodness we have come farther in this understanding. Thomas chooses 7 case studies involving women who have killed, and she writes with empathy and great clarity. I very much enjoyed this book, the writing style and tone are exactly right for her subject.

NetGalley, Carol Elizabeth Keogh

Comprehensively featured in

Lancashire and North West Magazine

As well as the background and overview of Broadmoor, we follow the stories of seven women detained at Broadmoor, the UK’s first criminal lunatic asylum. We learn about the background of the women, their lives, their families and their crimes.

Amazingly researched, I was fascinated by the help that these women received in the 19th century. Despite the ridiculous notions by male doctors as to why women commit such crimes as murdering their own children, they received care beyond what we may imagine. I had expected their incarceration to mirror the likes of which you may read about from other well known asylums such as Bethlehem (Bedlam) Hospital. I also found it so heartbreaking! The women were mostly living in poverty, giving birth again and again, working and often suffering from post-natal depression. If you love a good historical non-fiction, this is the book for you.

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Instagram, @northernbookqueen

Most people have heard of Broadmoor, Britain’s first lunatic asylum. The imposing redbrick facade opened its doors in 1864, created to house those who had committed dreadful crimes but were declared insane at trial. Nowadays, it’s a male only hospital, however originally it held both male & female patients. Many of the women incarcerated there had committed murder, often their own children, sadly a common crime back in Victorian times.

This incredibly detailed & well researched book selects seven of these women & investigates their lives. It focuses less on Broadmoor & more on the actual women - their childhoods, their families, their crimes.

I’m fascinated by Victorian England & mental asylums always send a shiver of fear up my spine. So this was a great opportunity to delve more into this unknown world. I came away with a mixture of emotions. The main one being sympathy - as each women’s life is unpicked it becomes evident that the continuous theme is exhaustion. These women were all on their knees. In a time where all women seemed to do was give birth it becomes apparent that their lives were one long constant slog. They were continuously pregnant while trying to look after the rest of their families & run the home, a relentless & brutal existence. I loved hearing their stories & thinking of them & empathising with them. Just names in an institution for over a century but now given a brief voice.

What I particularly found heart warming was that once inside Broadmoor, they actually got a rest. Increasingly modern values suggested they were treated with kindness & compassion within the walls - I found it amusing that despite the severity of their crimes (such as killing their child), most husbands still begged for their wives’ release - no doubt because they quickly realised what a thankless task their job was! In contrast I bet the women wanted to stay in Broadmoor for the rest of their days, who could blame them?!

Compelling & thought provoking in equal measure. I’ll be thinking of these women for a long time. And forever hailing the marvel of the contraceptive pill!

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Instagram, @ jo_scho_reads

Firstly, this was SUCH an interesting & insightful book!

As a reader, we learn seven women’s stories; their background, their family’s background, their partner’s background and ultimately the reason why they were detained in Broadmoor Asylum.

Without spoiling too much, but with a general idea of how Victorian medics viewed women and their illnesses, it perhaps doesn’t come as a shock that they believed, for example, that successive child bearing caused murderous tendencies and that even lactating/over-secretion of breast milk could make a woman mentally unstable…

Their medical views on why women commit crimes may leave a lot to be desired, but you may find it surprising to find out how these “criminals” were treated - with much more empathy than I feel many of them deserved.

‘Broadmoor Women’ is a fascinating, quite short, yet clearly well-researched read, and one that I would recommend to any fans of everyday life in the Victorian era, anyone with an interest in historical mental health, and of course, true-crime enthusiasts.

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Instagram, @betwixt.the.pages

This book was a fascinating look at Broadmoor prison in the 1800s, and a deep dive into 7 of its female patients.

Going in, I was expecting a bit more gore and torture but it turns out the 19th century was probably not such a terrible time to be ruled insane - the approach taken was of respite and kindness, to allow time to heal and recover from the ailment. The torture and experiments came later than the period this book covers.

Most of the women included were convicted of infanticide- something that is considered a rare yet heinous occasion today was much more commonplace in the 1800s and with women giving birth to more children and also the higher infant mortality rate, its really no surprise.

The women featured were treated with kindness and empathy by the courts, certainly more so than those convicted of the same crime today and ordered to stay at Broadmoor. Broadmoor was to some a welcome break from their very difficult life.

The reasons given for the mental illnesses these women suffered from all related to Childbirth or the uterus in some way.

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Instagram, @books_with_kayleigh

I was so thrilled to be asked to join the book tour by @penswordbooks... Anyone who knows me, will know that true crime is not my genre of choice - I read historical fiction or historical biographies ONLY... But the temptation of a gothic Victorian tale or 2 was enough to snare me!

Chapter 1 gave the reader an introduction to Broadmoor, and the other 'Lunatic Asylums' dotted around the UK during the time in focus, aswell as explaining the general attitude of the institute Staff, Professionals and also the public toward 'lunatics' and mental health as a whole.

The reader is then taken on 7 separate journeys, each woman residing in a different part of the UK, of different social class and status etc - but circumstances and ailments in common, which ultimately led to their incarceration in Broadmoor.

Each woman carried out the abominable crime of murder - the majority taking the life of their own child, even admitting to the heinous crime, declaring themselves 'murderesses'.

Why you ask, would any woman take the life of their own child?

The common factors uncovered by Thomas are - constant bearing of children, which was the reality of these women and their peers, both rich and poor suffering alike with post natal depression, exhaustion, abuse by their husbands; their minds and bodies being pushed to the absolute limits.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the reaction of both the court and public toward these women, and assumed they would of been baying for their blood; a life for a life as it were - but Thomas reveals the compassion and empathy shown toward said women, and a very modern understanding that they needed to be helped, not punished.

A dark, emotional and thought provoking read through out, well researched and written; I'd recommend this to any true crime fan, but also my fellow history lovers - it's left me with a thirst to delve back into Victorian Britain whether in the prisons, asylums or the poor houses.

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Instagram, @ c.r.w_w.r.i.t.i.n.g

Have you ever read a book before that has made you so angry you want to throw the book across the room? The introduction of Broadmoor Women did that for me. The eye rolls were almost constant! The understanding of women's medicine (as with all medicine at the time) was ridiculous but, unlike male conditions, women's medical problems were all their fault, simply for being women. Uteruses float about everywhere in womens' bodies causing all sorts of problems, including mental health. Really?

Kim Thomas has written a well researched book, telling the stories of several women and how they ended up in Broadmoor. It's easy to compare this style to 'The Five' as we learn about their lives leading up to the crimes they committed and I think it's a great study into social history at the time, as well as mental health and the impact of life at the time.

This is a book for any fan of women's social history and also indirectly provides commentary on issues of today.

Read the full review via [link=https://www.instagram.com/p/Cd-NPLwgP13/]Instagram[/llink]

Instagram, @perhapsiwillread

I’ll freely admit that when I think of Broadmoor Hospital, my mind instantly fixated on in its current guise; housing some of recent history’s most infamous male prisoners, such as Reggie Kray and Charles Bronson. I had no idea women were once admitted, and I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t given it much thought. But then there in lies the problem with much of women’s history - forever taking the backseat in favour of the patriarch. Which is why books such as ‘Broadmoor Women’ deserves your attention. No, it demands it.

I never like to give the full story away with reviews, but it’s probably no secret that this is an emotional read. Thomas delves into the lives of seven women who all became inmates of Broadmoor, but much like Hallie Rubenhold’s ‘The Five’, the author examines each woman in detail, broadening our understanding of their lives in 19th century England and not merely defining them by their fate. Women are all too often resigned to history by their ‘downfalls’, and we don’t always get the full context that surrounds their lives or of the hardships they may have faced. Thomas does an excellent job of reminding us to look at the bigger picture and see these women for who they really were.

A fascinating read - add it to your Herstory TBR pile ASAP!!

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Instagram, @thatmuseumgirl_

I was so honoured to be invited to participate in the book tour for ‘Broadmoor Women’ - I’m sure you all know by now that I’m a sucker for a true crime book, especially one as well-researched and intriguing as this. In a similar style to Hallie Rubenhold’s groundbreaking study of Jack The Ripper’s five canonical victims in her modern classic ‘The Five’, Thomas manages to tell the stories of some of the earliest female patients at Broadmoor without focusing too much on their crimes. It was heartbreaking to see the similarities between the women’s stories - poverty, abuse, and drink being recurring themes throughout. Thomas doesn’t just present these women’s stories in isolation; she puts them into the relevant historical context, and explains how society deemed women to be at risk of insanity by the very fact that they were women. The reproductive cycles of women were scrutinised and woefully misunderstood, as anyone who read Elinor Cleghorn’s monumental study of medical attitudes to women throughout history in ‘Unwell Women’ knows. However, society’s belief that female madness was a result of their uteruses undoubtedly saved a lot of women from the hangman’s noose, and gave them a second chance. I was particularly moved by the story of Elizabeth White, a mother from Wolverhampton who killed one son and tried to kill another and herself as an intended murder-suicide. Whereas some patients returned to their families and society after discharge and lived (relatively) happily afterwards, poor Elizabeth met her end on the train tracks seven years after her discharge. I’m sure there’s many more women out there whose stories ended in a similarly tragic fashion.

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Instagram, @anotherbloodybook

In this incredible book, Thomas tells the stories of 7 women from all walks of life in the 19th century and how they ended up at Broadmoor. She delves into their lives dealing with poverty, domestic abuse and repeated childbearing that led them to commit the crimes.
Thomas goes into such great detail about how these women were treated and although it wasn’t the best of conditions inside, it would have given these women a break from their busy lives and in some cases better living conditions and nutrition that was so poorly lacking at the time.
I felt so much for each of these ladies. Taking inspiration from Hallie Rubenhold’s The Five, and thanking her for such inspiration; you can see that Kim cared about these ladies and wanted to give them a proper voice. This wasn’t just some cruel retelling of history.
Being a new mother myself, I can’t imagine how many of these ladies coped without a support system and where this failed them, that’s when they ended up killing their children and as horrible as it is, it’s totally understandable. I just wanted to be able to hold these women and make it ok for them.
Although we have come a long way when it comes to mental health support and also post-natal depression, there is still more we can do. I’m so glad that we are a step further than Victorian times where there was little to no support, which usually meant that just like these women a lot of mothers would find they had no route to go down except muttering their own children.
A sad but fascinating read.

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Instagram, @stacys_book_nook

I found it so informative reading about the lives of the 7 women, and how they ended up in a place like Broadmoor. Although it wasn't exactly what we know Broadmoor to be today. The author tells us all about their families too, which gives us an insight in to family dynamics and how these women lived at the time. Its difficult to understand in the modern day why women in the Victorian era killed their children, which happened much more frequently.
The author provides great detail about Broadmoor and how it was utilised in the 19th century.
I actually have 'The Five' on my shelf so it will definitely be even more interesting to read now I know it provided inspiration for this book.
Overall, it was a very emotional read, and it went in to great detail, definitely a book I would recommend for people interested in Broadmoor.

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Instagram, @booked__out

Broadmoor was the first criminal lunatic asylum in Britain. Upon its inception in 1863, about one in five patients were female. ‘Broadmoor Women’ follows the lives of seven women who were patients at the asylum in the late 19th century. Today, Broadmoor is a male-only facility.

‘Broadmoor Women’ is an emotive read. The book vividly depicts the tragic lives of the seven women it follows and details how they ended up in the infamous asylum. The book also gives a fascinating insight into mental health treatment, or lack of it, in Victorian England.

If any of these topics interest you, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of this book!

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Instagram, @josephstephen.history

Ever linked to the infamous male residents such as Peter Sutcliffe and Ronald Kray, I was very eager to learn the obscure history of women who were incarcerated during the nineteenth century.

The author leads us on a "micro-history" in which the focus is on seven individual women to give us an insight into the experience of being an inmate of Broadmoor. I feel that when books focus on subjects such as mental health, it often goes hand in hand with the social context of that time period and the author carried this out with precision.

The highlights that a woman's 'respectability' and the social hierarchy often altered her situation, even if murder was involved, was extremely thought-provoking and I believe it still holds great relevance to this day.

I found that this book was a fascinating study of the Victorian ideals of criminal responsibility and it was handled with a sympathetic grace to the specific women featured. Mental health is still very much a taboo subject for many and this book shows that this has been the case for generations, unfortunately.

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Instagram, @historic_chronicles

This topic has always interested me so I was really intrigued by this book. Kim Thomas tells the stories of seven women who were in Broodmoor in its early days, and focuses on how these women were treated and what they did during their time there.
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There is always a wave of skepticism about the tone of books on sensitive topics including mental illness and true crime, making sure not to ‘fetishise’ the concept of these topics with an air of voyeuristic intrigue. But I needn’t have worried: Thomas tells these women’s stories with respect, professionalism, and also raw emotion. As much as this book is informative, it is also emotive, and you can tell Thomas really cares about historical accuracy, tone, and the stories of these women.
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I really appreciated Thomas taking the time at the beginning of the book to sensitively introduce this topic, providing a history of criminality, insanity, and of Broadmoor as a mental institution, including statistics, minimising the stigma, and removing the gatekeeping wall to give a more transparent view of this subject throughout the book.
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Thomas even credits Hallie Rubenhold’s ‘The Five’ as inspiration: actually focusing on real women and telling their stories, and looking at the truth and misconceptions about how mental health was perceived for during that time, and at Broadmoor. This book voices the identities of these women, instead of just their crimes.
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I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in this topic (please see triggers, the sad reality is, is that the crimes were horrific and I’d warn people to research before reading the book). Thomas uses her journalistic skills to speak to the reader and keep them engaged, and uses easy language to follow facts clearly and respectfully. An excellent piece of research!

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Instagram, @gothicbookworm

The book follows the stories of seven women who admitted to Broadmoor in the late nineteenth century. Kim Thomas does an incredible job in contextualising their lives, following them from birth to death so we can understand their decline in mental health, their time at Broadmoor and how recovery looked for them afterwards.

What I particularly loved was the time taken to provide us with an understanding of how mental health was perceived at this time. The first chapter takes us through the history of asylums and the attitudes towards the patients before focusing on women specifically, how they were treated by both the medical and legal system and what they were often admitted for.

Tragically, a large proportion of women who were admitted were for murdering their own children. But again, it was extremely insightful to gain understanding on postpartum care, depression and how it was treated in women at this time.

I would 100% recommend this read, if you’re interested in medical or criminal history of course, but for women’s history in particular. It is so valuable to gain an insight into the ‘everyday’ woman of this period, and in particular, into their health and care.

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Instagram, @historywithsiobhan

When Broadmoor opened in 1863, the aim was to offer therapy for those who had been convicted of a crime but deemed insane. The hospital was to provide treatment not punishment to patients in the hope they may one day safely return to society. Since then, Broadmoor has undergone a number of physical and ideological transformations and has gained notoriety for housing some of the UK’s most dangerous criminals. In Broadmoor Women, however, Kim Thomas focuses on Broadmoor’s early years and specifically the lives of seven women who were brought there following shocking crimes.

The book opens with an overview of Victorian criminality and healthcare. At the time, women were at greater risk of mental health issues than men, although we still see this today, the disparity back then was even greater. One explanation for this was the endless cycle of pregnancy and childbirth women often faced coupled with high infant mortality and demanding workloads. Women were also held to different social standards with signs of insanity often being gender specific. For a woman; swearing, loudness or being unkempt were considered signs of insanity. Although the socio-economic status varied in Broadmoor, the majority came from poorer backgrounds, where demands could be overwhelming and assistance limited.

Kim Thomas’ has an extensive background in women’s mental health issues and the books is written with insight and sympathy. I came to this book for the true crime and history but found the political and sociological themes of Broadmoor Women fascinating. Although women’s mental health is still a crucial issue today, the stories highlight what can be gained from timely intervention. Given the broad spectrum of themes covered, Broadmoor Women has something for all nonfiction fans.

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Instagram, @alice.huntsman

Usually I steer clear from anything to do with asylums, horror movies based in them, even American Horror Story tv show S2 Asylum as they just give me the creeps. But when I was offered to read this and be part of the book tour I thought let’s give it a go.

Well give it a go I did and oh boy what an emotional read! The poor women who had to endure life in these establishments are the real heroes of history! Never has a non fiction read made me cry so hard since I read The Five last year. The book is packed with knowledge and historical facts and I would urge anyone to give this a read as I thoroughly enjoyed it, whilst it broke my heart a lot more. 5 stars

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Instagram, @bookwormstephanie

Kim Thomas’ ‘Broadmoor Women: Tales from Britain’s First Criminal Lunatic Asylum’ tells us the stories of seven women, all of whom were incarcerated in this institution for homicide or attempted homicide.

The author peppers the narrative richly with details, thus placing the reader in the shoes of these women. We follow them from birth (biographies of parents and grandparents are also present when available) until death, with life stories of their offspring as well (if there were any). We are asked to sympathise with these women, and understand what led them to take a life (or attempt to, in one case).

Of course, most readers know that life for Victorian women wasn’t easy, and the author doesn’t let them forget it. Universal suffrage was still years away, and the endless pressure and duties of childbearing were definitely taking their toll.

The potential for domestic abuse (he said/ she said) and in/voluntary motherhood are the realities of many women at that time. Financial struggles and deaths of relatives might just push someone over the edge.

This book comprises these stories which are cases of human behaviour, and in some ways they are products of their time, but some of these issues are still with us. Reading this book in the era of mental health awareness, The US lawsuit Wade vs Roe and of course, the infamous Depp vs Heard courtroom drama make for a curious reading background.

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Instagram, @natalieisahistorybuff

I love a true crime read and Broadmoor has been particularly fascinating to me as the home of some of the worst criminals over time. The cover of this one is intriguing and has made me want to delve into the pages and find out more.

The crimes included in this book have been both intriguing and shocking. This is a well researched book which shows some of the most dreadful.

Broadmoor has a reputation that speaks before you even pick this book up. Initially, one in five patients were female convicted of murdering husbands, children or family members. However, initially most had been found not guilty due to insanity.

Thomas explores some awful cases with this book and I have found it interesting to read. This is a book written in a way that is easy to follow and makes you want to read more.

After reading Broadmoor women, I have been left wanting more. I will definitely be recommending this book and looking up more books by this author.

This is a perfect read for true crime fans and one that I will definitely be recommending.

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Instagram, @littlemissbooklover87

I was fascinated by each of the seven women patients in the book. They are real. Their stories made me understand a little bit more of what Victorian England looked like and felt like when it comes to treating mental health and women. The causes of their condition was poorly understood by society and doctors as well

It is a very interesting and emotional read. The tragic lives of these women, the poverty they had to endure, the violence they had to put up with, the childbearing, so often one after the other - with most children not surviving infancy, they all leave a mark on any person who has to go through one or all of the above
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These women - they all have a story and they need to be heard
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This has definitely been an absolute rollercoaster for me and I have to say a massive thank you to @penswordbooks for offering me a copy of the book and a spot on the tour. An incredible and well detailed book that I fully recommend

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As featured in Lancashire & North West Magazine!

Lancashire & North West Magazine, June 2022

I found this book interesting, it humanises the history of Broadmoor and gives us a snapshot into the social conditions of the late Victorian period.

Read the full review here

Rosie Writes...

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This follows a detailed and interesting true account from the first criminal asylum which opened in 1863 this goes through stories of 7 of them women who was In Broadmoor, when it first opened only 1 in 5 women got admitted to Broadmoor so this goes through 7 of the woman’s stories in detail.

A thorough interesting book.

Recommend to all.

NetGalley, Shannon Wadlan

As featured in the article: 'Life inside Britain's first lunatic asylum for the criminally insane'

Wigan Observer

This is a fascinating book. The stories of the women who lives are chronicled are testimony to the attitudes towards females in general, particularly within the framework of marriage, child bearing and child raising. For the most part they were simply considered receptacles for their husbands and even when stressed beyond what they could handle, were still expected to perform their duties. Most of the women came across sympathetically. Even the ones who killed their own children were not evil. I think the most telling condemnations were the husbands who wanted the women released because they needed them back doing what put them in the asylum in the first place.

None of this came as a particular shock but what did surprise me was the care and kindness these women found at Broadmoor., at least during the years described. I guess too many old movies made me expect a cruel and barren environment and nothing could be further from the truth. The fact that with the care they received many of them were released and went on to live long lives. It was a revelation.

The stories are all interesting and well researched. Four purrs and two paws up.

NetGalley, Susan Johnston

As featured in the article: 'Life inside Britain's first lunatic asylum for the criminally insane'

Lancashire Post

The history of the treatment of Mental Illness has always fascinated me, particularly the criteria for women to be diagnosed and committed to an asylum. Many times, we hear about women in asylums for reasons such as "hysteria" or "melancholy" so it is interesting to hear more about particular patients, their diagnoses, and their time in Broadmoor.

I appreciate that the author took the time to humanize and not demonize these women. Kim Thomas helped us get to know each individual woman's story, but also what drove them to the crimes causing their stay at Broadmoor. It is interesting to note that things such as "excessive breastfeeding" were considered to have caused mental illness. Today we know this to likely be depression throughout various stages of pregnancy,

Thomas keeps the book interesting with a variety of facts desgined to catch attention. For example, many women in Broadmoor were there for their crimes of murdering their children or spouses. However, if a woman had killed her child, the husbands were rather quick to forgive and get the women home - probably to relieve the burden of having to care for the remaining children on their own! It is so interesting to hear the reasoning behind the goings on as opposed to a bland statement of what happened.

For me, this was an incredibly interesting read and I hope to hear more from Kim Thomas in the future!

NetGalley, Jennifer Koerten

Excellent book with some very interesting stories on broadmoor, history at its finest and would recommend anyone reads this, either in one sitting or a pick up and dip into when you have some spare minutes.

NetGalley, Louise Corrigan

This book was well written and very informative. Reading about the lives of the different women in Broadmoor made me want to learn more.

NetGalley, Naomi Downing

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Broadmoor Women is an interesting and I thought quite emotional read, the experiences, struggles and lives of these women are tragic and although in the 1800s have no less of an effect on me than if they were today. This book is well researched. And well written by Kim Thomas. I found this to a thoroughly absorbing insight into the first asylum in the UK for criminals and will appeal to many.

NetGalley, Tara Keating

Thomas presents a well-researched and documented in-depth discussion on seven "residents" of Broadmoor. Women have had a rough time throughout much of human history, and we need more books that explore how they came to end up in their situation and what happened there so younger generations can see how far we've come and how far we have yet to go.

NetGalley, Teresa Grabs

This is a very well researched and meticulously annotated history of some of the women who were committed to the institution for the criminally insane in the middle to late Victorian era (1863 - 1896). It was interesting and more engaging to me because the author chose to concentrate on a more detailed history with a narrower focus (7 particular women) rather than a more general and less detail oriented survey of the hospital. The introduction does give a general overview of the classification and treatment of mental health and illness in those days as well as a short history of Broadmoor but the chief focus is on the biographies.

The biographies of the subjects are full of pathos and it's easy to feel compassion for the women who were often desperate and otherwise powerless.

The writing is accessible and flows well. It's academically competent, but not overwrought or intentionally obfuscated. The chapter notes and bibliography are well worth a perusal and will provide many hours of additional reading.

In many places, I found the reading difficult emotionally and sad. Nobody who was resident at Broadmoor had an easy time of it, and most of these women lived exceedingly difficult lives full of pain and sorrow. The author does a very good job of showing despite vastly different backgrounds, they all came for a time to the same place (over a 30 year period).

Four stars. Fascinating (if somewhat depressing) history.

NetGalley, Annie Buchanan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Really well written and interestingly detailed look into the lives of some of the women that were sent to Broadmoor. It kept me captivated in wanting to learn more about the women and the lives that they lived both before and after their incarceration at the famous asylum.

NetGalley, Claire Smith

Article: 'Author releases book on Broadmoor women'

Welwyn and Hatfield Times

Recommended for readers with an interest in the area where criminal justice and (mental) healthcare meet, especially those interested in the history of that intersection. Readers simply interested in Victorian society will find a lot to enjoy here as well.

NetGalley, Jack Messer

I found Broadmoor Women to be a moving book. The struggles and situations of these women were often tragic and due to the stresses of life in the 1800s.

I enjoyed finding out more about the cases and they had all been professionally researched. The book reminded me of the Five by Hallie Rubenhold with the background's and histories of each of the women explained fully.

NetGalley, Hazel Thomson

An interesting account of some of the female inmates at Broadmoor. Well researched and compiled. Recommended.

NetGalley, Wendy M Rhodes

This was very insightful and I think the way it was told was very informative and interesting ~ I would recommend

NetGalley, Karis Books

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book spoke a lot about mental health which I’ve always found a fascinating subject. I found it amazing and an insightful read!

NetGalley, Michelle Coates

Broadmoor Women gives us an insight into the first asylum in the UK for the criminally insane. The author gives us a practical background of the institution itself and the relevant social context of the Victorian Era in which Broadmoor was founded. We were then introduced to the personal stories of individual women who were committed to Broadmoor.

I found this book to be an incredibly quick and absorbing read. I've always found history interesting and I love reading about it, but the concept of microhistories is a new one for me. It's great. I feel like you get a more accurate idea of what an individual experience is.

I was hit very hard in this book with the crimes that these women were driven to commit under the guise of "insanity." I feel like the environmental factors of the Victorian Era drove these women to do things that were just so shocking - I would have considered them mentally ill, also! The definition of mental illness and the treatments were vastly different, but I can see the delineation that took place between now and then. I also was forced to examine the social commentary of the day and the risk factors that made people more likely to engage in criminal behavior - an I realized that they are the same as today. Poverty, access to good medical care, access to family planning resources, access to clean water and good food, domestic violence, and poor living and working conditions all made people more likely to engage in violence. I also felt that the approach of the day to treating mental illness was very humane and effective for what was considered insanity. It was both unnerving and a relief that a lot of the problems that society faced back then are the same as we have today. It allowed me to connect more with the individuals that I was fortunate to get to know in the book.

NetGalley, Rae Nason

Broadmoor, Brittan's first asylum for criminal lunatics was founded in 1863. In the first years of it's existence, one in five patients were female. Most had been tried for terrible crimes and sent to Broadmoor after being found not guilty by virtue of insanity. Many had murdered their own children, while others had killed their husbands or other family members.

I do like a true crime book. This one gives us an insight into what it must have been like for people living with mental health issues and what they had to endure. You can tell the author has spent a lot of time researching the topic. The crimes were dreadful but intriguing.

NetGalley, Louise Wilson

I’ve read books about killers of both sexes who ended up in Broadmoor until they died. This is a detailed book on the lives of women who were sent to the infamous Broadmoor asylum during the Victorian era. There is quite a bit of backstory on the making of the asylum, the types of prisoners that were sent there, and the various heads of Broadmoor during these times. It tells the stories of seven women who were sent there and why... A good read for anyone wanting to know more about women in this asylum during this period.

NetGalley, Valerie Shampine

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this book, found it was unique to anything I previously read. This has captured my interest from the beginning and been a book I have struggled to put down.

NetGalley, Vikkie Wakeham

Interesting. A look into some women who spent time in Broadmoor Asylum (the same place where the Yorkshire Ripper and one of the Kray twins were housed for a time). It's a really good read.

NetGalley, Norma Carroll

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was such a good read. Broadmoor is perhaps one of the most famous institutions for the mentally ill, second probably only to Bedlam, in this country. It was such a compelling read, not only because I am fascinated by true crime, but also because it gave a real human side to the women and their crimes.
It showed that these women were often living in very hard circumstances such as poverty, repeated childbearing - as we all know happened in Victorian times and before - and domestic violence/abuse. IT surprised me how emotive this book made me when reading about these women and their crimes and how being in an institution such as Broadmoor was actually a positive respite for these women, not just in terms of rehabilitation into society, which many of the women did, but also from the perils of their lives where they could just be themselves. Obviously this was not the case for everyone but each individual story had its own heartbreaks involved.
An emotive and informative read that I couldn't put down.

NetGalley, Aria Harlow

This author spent a lot of time researching for this book and in my opinion it paid off. The introduction was great as it gives much information on Broadmoor itself as well as the history of its occupants. The individual stories of the women were so detailed with information not only about their cases but their lives and those of their families afterwards. Some good illustrations too.

NetGalley, Christine Cazeneuve

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, so full of information about how the different institutions were built, run and the treatments they employed, very well researched. Then comes the individual stories of seven women who were in Broadmoor. A great incite into Victorian attitudes and has the reader involved and feeling for them

NetGalley, Vicky Jones

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fascinating account of women’s experience with the mental health system over time. This account of the different experiences of women from various social classes and circumstances highlights the vulnerability of women with mental health support needs. The commentary about the impact of contraception, or the lack thereof, is an interesting analytical point. A very well researched and well written account.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

Broadmoor was Great Britain’s first and most infamous asylum for the "criminally insane”. This book examines the lives of seven female patients who were sentenced to the asylum after being convicted of a terrible crime, viewed even more horrific in the eyes of the Victorian public because they were committed by women. Mental illness was barely understood, if at all, at the time, and treatments ranged from exercise and good food to the more sinister remedies of the day. All but one of the women profiled here “recovered” and were released, and for some, even Broadmoor was better than the world they left behind. During times of shocking poverty and abuse, women had little to no resources when they needed help. For some of those women, their rage, fear and desperation led them to commit terrible crimes, which then led them to incarceration at Broadmoor. This was a fascinating look into the past and the mentally ill were treated, focusing on a small group of women makes this history much more personal and relatable.

NetGalley, Rosemary Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Interesting account of a asylum or psychiatric facility. This book is an extremely informative historical narrative on mental health. Disturbing but very interesting it’s an incredible part of history that needs to be told. Highly recommend!

NetGalley, Lynn Beck

About Kim Thomas

Kim Thomas has more than 20 years’ experience as a freelance journalist, writing extensively about education and health for national newspapers and trade publications. In 2019, she completed a Master’s degree in English local history at Oxford University, which included a dissertation on women committed to Broadmoor in the nineteenth century. She has a particular interest and expertise in mental illness following childbirth and is the CEO of the Birth Trauma Association, a charity that supports women experiencing postnatal PTSD. She has previously published books on education and on birth trauma. This is her first book for Pen and Sword.

Perfect Partner

Broadmoor Revealed (Paperback)

Glimpse what went on behind the walls of England's first Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Mark Stevens reveals what life was like for the criminally insane, over one hundred years ago. From fresh research into the Broadmoor archives, Mark has uncovered the lost lives of patients whose mental illnesses led them to become involved in crime. Discover the five women who went on to become mothers in Broadmoor, giving birth to new life when three of them had previously taken it. Find out how several Victorian immigrants ended their hopeful journeys to England in madness and disaster. And follow the nail-biting…

By Mark Stevens

Click here to buy both titles for £20.98
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