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The Suffering of Women Who Didn't Fit (Hardback)

'Madness' in Britain, 1450–1950

P&S History Women of History

By David J. Vaughan
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 166
ISBN: 9781526732293
Published: 7th November 2018




As featured by The Bookseller on 17/8/18

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For over 500 years, women have suffered claims of mental decay solely on account of their gender. Frigid, insane, not quite there, a witch in sheep's clothing, labels that have cast her as the fragile species and destroyer of Man.

This book reveals attitudes, ideas and responses on what was to be done with 'mad women' in Britain.

Journey back into the unenlightened Middle Ages to find demonic possession, turbulent humours and the wandering womb. In the Puritan Age, when the mad were called witches and scolds ducked for their nagging. The age of Austen and a sense and sensibility created from her fragile nerves. Then descend into Victorian horrors of wrongful confinement and merciless surgeons, before arriving, just half a century past, to the Viennese couch and an obligation to talk.

At the heart of her suffering lay her gynaecological make-up, driving her mad every month and at every stage of her life. Terms such as menstrual madness, puerperal insanity and 'Old Maid's Insanity' poison history's pages.

An inescapable truth is now shared: that so much, if not all, was a male creation. Though not every medic was male, nor every male a fiend, misogynist thought shaped our understanding of women, set down expectations and 'corrected' the flawed.

The book exposes the agonies of life for the 'second class' gender; from misdiagnosis to brutal oppression, seen as in league with the Devil or the volatile wretch. Touching no less than six centuries, it recalls how, for a woman, being labelled as mad was much less a risk, more her inevitable burden.

I’d certainly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in women’s history or perhaps ‘madness’ in history.

Read the full review here

The Medieval Library

It’s amplified while wandering through time within topics... of women labelled as being nervous, more emotive, less predictable, vulnerable, prone to hysterics, and how treatments have evolved over time.

Read the full review here

GoodReads, Kristine Fisher

As featured in

The Bookseller 17/8/18
 David J. Vaughan

About David J. Vaughan

David J. Vaughan, former Assistant County Archaeologist in heritage-rich Wiltshire, is now a full-time author, historian, speaker and radio & tv presenter; writing fact, fiction and screenplays, mostly based in the past. His blog, Mad, Bad or Desperate has inspired this volume, gaining thousands of hits from all over the world. Though rarely not writing, he indulges his passions: house restoration and the famed Merseyside club who play their football in blue! More at: www.davidjvaughan.co.uk

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