Ten Days in a Mad-House

Open Road Media
250
Free sample

A courageous female journalist’s classic exposé of the horrific treatment of the mentally ill in nineteenth-century America

In 1887, Nellie Bly accepted an assignment from publisher Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World and went undercover at the lunatic asylum on Blackwell Island, America’s first municipal mental hospital. Calling herself “Nellie Brown,” she was able to convince policemen, a judge, and a series of doctors of her madness with a few well-practiced facial expressions of derangement.

At the institution, Bly discovered the stuff of nightmares. Mentally ill patients were fed rotten, inedible food; violently abused by a brutal, uncaring staff; and misdiagnosed, mistreated, or generally ignored by the doctors and so-called mental health experts entrusted with their care. To her horror, Bly encountered sane patients who had been committed on the barest of pretenses and came to the shocking realization that, while the Blackwell Island asylum was remarkably easy to get into, it was nearly impossible to leave.

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About the author

Nellie Bly (1864–1922) was born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A writer, inventor, and lifelong advocate for a variety of feminist causes, she came to national fame with a series of articles about abuses at the mental asylum on Blackwell Island, America’s first municipal mental hospital. Ten Days in a Mad-House (1887), a collection of articles originally published in Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, helped to change official mental health policies and pioneered a new form of investigative journalism. Bly also wrote a book about her record-breaking seventy-two-day journey around the world. After marrying successful manufacturer Robert Seaman, she became one of the country’s leading female industrialists and earned several patents for her inventions. She eventually returned to journalism, covering the Women’s Suffrage Parade of 1913 and reporting from Europe’s Eastern Front during World War I.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Open Road Media
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Published on
Oct 27, 2015
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Pages
106
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ISBN
9781480443846
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Editors, Journalists, Publishers
Medical / Mental Health
Social Science / Human Services
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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From the Executive Director of Mental Health for Correctional Services in New York City, comes a revelatory and deeply compassionate memoir that takes readers inside Bellevue, and brings to life the world—the system, the staff, and the haunting cases—that shaped one young psychiatrist as she learned how to doctor and how to love.

Elizabeth Ford went through medical school unsure of where she belonged. It wasn’t until she did her psychiatry rotation that she found her calling—to care for one of the most vulnerable populations of mentally ill people, the inmates of New York's jails, including Rikers Island, who are so sick that they are sent to the Bellevue Hospital Prison Ward for care.

These men were broken, unloved, without resources or support, and very ill. They could be violent, unpredictable, but they could also be funny and tender and needy. Mostly, they were human and they awakened in Ford a boundless compassion. Her patients made her a great doctor and a better person and, as she treated these men, she learned about doctoring, about nurturing, about parenting, and about love.

While Ford was a psychiatrist at Bellevue she becomes a wife and a mother. In her book she shares her struggles to balance her life and her work, to care for her children and her patients, and to maintain the empathy that is essential to her practice—all in the face of a jaded institution, an exhausting workload, and the deeply emotionally taxing nature of her work.

Ford brings humor, grace, and humanity to the lives of the patients in her care and in beautifully rendered prose illuminates the inner workings (and failings) of our mental health system, our justice system, and the prison system.
“The Lives They Left Behind is a deeply moving testament to the human side of mental illness, and of the narrow margin which so often separates the sane from the mad. It is a remarkable portrait, too, of the life of a psychiatric asylum—the sort of community in which, for better and for worse, hundreds of thousands of people lived out their lives. Darby Penney and Peter Stastny’s careful historical (almost archaeological) and biographical reconstructions give us unique insight into these lives which would otherwise be lost and, indeed, unimaginable to the rest of us.” —Oliver Sacks

“Fascinating. . . . The haunting thing about the suitcase owners is that it’s so easy to identify with them.” —Newsweek

When Willard State Hospital closed its doors in 1995, after operating as one of New York State’s largest mental institutions for over 120 years, a forgotten attic filled with suitcases belonging to former patients was discovered. Using the possessions found in these suitcases along with institutional records and doctors’ notes from patient sessions, Darby Penney, a leading advocate of patients’ rights, and Peter Stastny, a psychiatrist and documentary filmmaker, were able to reconstruct the lives of ten patients who resided at Willard during the first half of the twentieth century.

The Lives They Left Behind tells their story. In addition to these human portraits, the book contains over 100 photographs as well as valuable historical background on how this state-funded institution operated. As it restores the humanity of the individuals it so poignantly evokes, The Lives They Left Behind reveals the vast historical inadequacies of a psychiatric system that has yet to heal itself.
Dr. Stribling was only twenty-six years old in 1836 when he became head of Western State hospital. Then, every institution for the insane in the South, and all but a very few in the remainder of the country, were little more than penitentiaries. Dr. Robert Hansen, superintendent of Western State Hospital, wrote in 1967, "In an age of the common man, Dr. Stribling possessed an uncommon and profound knowledge of human nature, and the importance of human relationships. He believed that the drives, interests, and needs of the insane were the same as those of others, and that satisfaction of them through human relationships, would help restore their reason." Stribling recognized that insanity was a disease that if treated early, was curable. He used medical and moral therapy, separately or in concert, to cure his patients. Moral medicine included early treatment, separating the violent from those who could be cured, eliminating restraints whenever possible, providing patients with nutritious food, occupation, exercise, amusements and religious services. Caretakers were instructed how to increase their patients' self-esteem, especially by being their friend. Stribling's efforts to admit only patients who could be cured resulted in a bitter dispute in the early 1840s between him and Dr. John Minson. Galt was head of Eastern State Hospital, the first institution in the Colonies built for the treatment of the insane. Soon thereafter, Stribling rewrote Virginia's laws concerning the insane to conform to his admission policies. In 1852, Stribling and his directors defended themselves against charges by Captain Randolph that they abused their patients. Randolph's son had been a patient at Western State. During the Civil War Stribling managed to provide for his patients even after Sheridan's troops sacked his hospital. The daily lives of slave servants are described and also the different approaches taken by Stribling and Galt provide for insane free blacks and insane slaves. The similarities and differences between the two young doctors are examined. (Stribling was twenty-six and Galt twenty-two when they assumed their positions.) Letters between Dr. Stribling and Dorothea Dix from 1849 until 1860 describe a deep and intimate friendship. Mrs. Stribling's letter to her eighteen-year-old son while he was a prisoner of war is probably representative of many letters from other mothers in the South and North who were in a similar situation. After the war, Stribing was successful after he petitioned Congress to keep his job. His reconciliation speech at the superintendents' meeting in Boston in 1868 was highly praised by his fellow superintendents and the Boston press. Dr. Stribling died in 1874.
The first edited volume of work by the legendary undercover journalist

Born Elizabeth Jane Cochran, Nellie Bly was one of the first and best female journalists in America and quickly became a national phenomenon in the late 1800s, with a board game based on her adventures and merchandise inspired by the clothes she wore. Bly gained fame for being the first “girl stunt reporter,” writing stories that no one at the time thought a woman could or should write, including an exposé of patient treatment at an insane asylum and a travelogue from her record-breaking race around the world without a chaperone. This volume, the only printed and edited collection of Bly’s writings, includes her best known works—Ten Days in a Mad-House, Six Months in Mexico, and Around the World in Seventy-Two Days—as well as many lesser known pieces that capture the breadth of her career from her fierce opinion pieces to her remarkable World War I reporting. As 2014 marks the 150th anniversary of Bly’s birth, this collection celebrates her work, spirit, and vital place in history.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of 2018

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The #1 New York Times bestseller.

A brilliant and brave investigation into the medical and scientific revolution taking place around psychedelic drugs--and the spellbinding story of his own life-changing psychedelic experiences

When Michael Pollan set out to research how LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) are being used to provide relief to people suffering from difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety, he did not intend to write what is undoubtedly his most personal book. But upon discovering how these remarkable substances are improving the lives not only of the mentally ill but also of healthy people coming to grips with the challenges of everyday life, he decided to explore the landscape of the mind in the first person as well as the third. Thus began a singular adventure into various altered states of consciousness, along with a dive deep into both the latest brain science and the thriving underground community of psychedelic therapists. Pollan sifts the historical record to separate the truth about these mysterious drugs from the myths that have surrounded them since the 1960s, when a handful of psychedelic evangelists inadvertently catalyzed a powerful backlash against what was then a promising field of research.

A unique and elegant blend of science, memoir, travel writing, history, and medicine, How to Change Your Mind is a triumph of participatory journalism. By turns dazzling and edifying, it is the gripping account of a journey to an exciting and unexpected new frontier in our understanding of the mind, the self, and our place in the world. The true subject of Pollan's "mental travelogue" is not just psychedelic drugs but also the eternal puzzle of human consciousness and how, in a world that offers us both suffering and joy, we can do our best to be fully present and find meaning in our lives.
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