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Psychiatry and eugenics: the classification and diagnosis of female patients in British Columbia’s psychiatric institutions, 1918-1933

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dc.contributor.author Fehr, Paige
dc.date.accessioned 2017-08-31T19:59:15Z
dc.date.copyright 2017 en_US
dc.date.issued 2017-08-31
dc.identifier.uri https://dspace.library.uvic.ca//handle/1828/8529
dc.description.abstract Between 1918 and 1933, the eugenic notion of “defective heredity” was central to psychiatric practice in British Columbia. Public and medical professionals’ concerns were heightened by an apparent increase in “insane” and “mentally deficient” individuals in the province. Using the annual reports for the asylums and the case files of women who were admitted to the Public Hospital for the Insane and to Essondale between 1918 and 1933, this thesis examines the relationship between psychiatric practice and eugenics, specifically how eugenically-minded asylum physicians classified and diagnosed female patients. Asylum physicians used admissions forms, patient interviews, observation, and inference to make diagnoses. Often, despite a lack of evidence, they concluded that patients had inherited a predisposition to mental disease. Women admitted to B.C.’s Public Hospital for the Insane and to Essondale were more likely than their male counterparts to have their mental condition linked to heredity. Any “eccentric” or “abnormal” behaviour or personality in the patient or their family was considered by asylum physicians to be evidence of a predisposition to mental disorder. Within the population of female asylum patients, racialized women were the most likely to be labeled as having “defective heredity.” Widespread racial discrimination in the province, combined with the fact that eugenic discourse targeted non-white citizens as being biologically and culturally inferior, shaped and influenced the asylum physicians’ classification and diagnoses of mental illness among racialized women. The experiences of these women during their incarceration were also shaped by racialized discourse and their behaviour was negatively stereotyped by asylum staff. en_US
dc.language English eng
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.rights Available to the World Wide Web en_US
dc.subject history en_US
dc.subject women en_US
dc.subject psychiatry en_US
dc.subject mental health en_US
dc.subject eugenics en_US
dc.subject British Columbia en_US
dc.subject twentieth century en_US
dc.subject race en_US
dc.subject institutions en_US
dc.title Psychiatry and eugenics: the classification and diagnosis of female patients in British Columbia’s psychiatric institutions, 1918-1933 en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US
dc.contributor.supervisor Marks, Lynne Sorrel
dc.degree.department Department of History en_US
dc.degree.level Master of Arts M.A. en_US
dc.description.scholarlevel Graduate en_US
dc.description.embargo 2018-08-17


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