Today for day six of the Nannermopo, at Real Toads, we have a photo flash prompt. The treatment of the insane was cruel and unusual – women were given hysterectomies, their hair shaved, their teeth pulled, cold ice baths daily, being bound to their beds, drugged until senseless, raped by their caretakers, starved…


First they cut off her hair –
Then they gave her a hysterectomy-
Then they pulled her teeth.
Her family had deemed her insane because
She took no crap from no man
Because she ran naked from the house at times
Because she found a kitten and hugged it until
it died
Because she laughed at the wrong times
Because she cried at the wrong times.
She hugged a mask until it died
Being insane in the late stages of Victoria’s reign
Was a hard job – but someone had to do it.
She did it well.

Adolph de Meyer (1927)
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19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sanaarizvi
    Apr 07, 2018 @ 16:57:27

    My goodness! I love how you approached this photo with a darker theme. One can only imagine the horrors a person faces in the journey of being himself.


  2. Marilyn Cavicchia
    Apr 07, 2018 @ 16:57:52

    Interesting! I, too, saw some hospital-like imagery.


  3. coalblack
    Apr 07, 2018 @ 17:23:00

    Teeth pulling? Ay yi yi. I knew about the rest but not that. A woman could be committed back in the day for almost any reason, including reading too much. No, I didn’t make that up. Basically, a woman was such a non-person back in the day, that she could be consigned to such a hell for any reason at all, and she had no recourse. The famous newswoman Nellie Bly wrote a famous report about her experience when she pretended mental illness in order to get into an asylum so she could write about what she discovered. (It wasn’t pretty.) Her editor had his hands full to convince the authorities there that she was who she was, and to let her out. She was a bold one.


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 07, 2018 @ 19:54:55

      Yes. Kellie was a bold one. Not only for reading too much but so family members could get control of any money or property she had inherited.The Chinese were not the only ones that treated their women inhumanely.


  4. Sherry Marr
    Apr 07, 2018 @ 18:03:21

    That is so interesting about Nellie Bly…yes, it would have been hard, once in, to get back out again. I read a list a while back of “ailments” that could get a woman locked away and it is one scary list. I am lucky I was married in the early 70’s. Had my ex had his way, I would have been locked up for sure, LOL.


  5. elleceef
    Apr 07, 2018 @ 19:49:18

    Wow, this is really interesting. Your words describe the picture so well that it becomes the situation in the poem. A wonderful creative circle. 🙂


  6. mhmp77
    Apr 07, 2018 @ 21:13:13


    It is such a tragedy to be found in such a situation. It appears Toni, to being cruel to be kind in some ways!



  7. Margaret Elizabeth Bednar
    Apr 07, 2018 @ 22:01:06

    “promiscuity” in women was a ticket to the asylum. I did a prompt with photos from an abandoned asylum – it was very interesting. I will link it here not that you should read all the linked poems but you might find the links (images and info) to the asylum interesting (and disturbing)


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 07, 2018 @ 22:05:25

      Thank you Margaret. Please do link for me. Yes. Promiscuity. Reading much, being uppity, not having a son…so many reasons and ways to get women out of the way.


  8. Margaret Elizabeth Bednar
    Apr 07, 2018 @ 22:05:03

    Her photos of the asylum don’t seem to be on her website anymore.


  9. Rosemary Nissen-Wade
    Apr 08, 2018 @ 02:23:11

    Yes, I can see that interpretation – and how very horrific it was, when being real was deemed insanity and insanity was an excuse for torture.


  10. Kerry O'Connor
    Apr 08, 2018 @ 02:30:15

    This prompt opened a very interesting door here for your readers. Psychology has come a long way but care of those with mental problems is still not what it should be. We had a case in SA last year where hundreds of patients were lost in the system, many farmed out to incompetent facilities where they starved to death.


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 08, 2018 @ 11:29:14

      Oh my God. What a horrific tragedy. Here in the US though it is not much better. Insurance often leads to patients being discharged, starving to death in facilities, winding up homeless on the streets. The mentally ill have come a long way in terms of treatment and understanding but still not far enough.


  11. paul scribbles
    Apr 08, 2018 @ 16:15:55

    Yikes!!! Such a vivid picture you paint. Reminds me of the female journalist who went undercover into asylums around that time. She made it back out and wrote about her experiences to great effect. Things began to change shortly afterwards.


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 08, 2018 @ 16:46:41

      Yeppers. Nellie Bly. It changed things but still there are state owned and privately owned money makers that still are deplorable. One here in Richmond had the patients wandering around the streets like zombies begging for food, half dressed and dirty. Very sad. Some changes have been made but still there is one horrible place opersting, getting by on loopholes.


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