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View Full Version : From Sanctuary to Snake Pit: The rise and fall of asylums



AcadieLibre
11-18-2009, 06:47 PM
I found this photo essay as I was reading New Scientist. I found it to be a very interesting photo essay. I have seen some of these institutions first hand when I was an orderly in one of my previous lives. It was still fairly barbaric, it was getting better but once you see several people after shock therapy you see the world in a different light. I also now believe we like the article states come back to a place where even the most disturbed people are treated like well people at least in some of the more civilized societies, ill treatment is still the main stay of those with mental afflictions in many parts of the world.

From Sanctuary to Snake Pit: The rise and fall of asylums (http://www.newscientist.com/gallery/history-of-asylums)

casil403
11-18-2009, 10:45 PM
Very interesting article...amazing to see the original lofty ideal and the fiasco it eventually morphed into. Wouldn't it be cool if they could figure out a new use for those beautiful buildings! :) Ill treatment is the mainstay for many types of disability be it mental or physical in many parts of the world.
Reminds me a bit too of the low income housing projects that started up in the 60-70's...kind of ended along the same lines in a way.
Thanks for sharing......

AcadieLibre
11-18-2009, 10:57 PM
Well here in Toronto they did save the buildings at the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital and turned into a college campus. Two summers ago I spent a few days volunteering to find the remains of those buried with no markers or headstones, it was sad what they did even to them at the end. Here is the history of this one institution. I have photos from there but I cannot access them right now they are on my external drives on my desk.

Asylum by the Lake (http://www.asylumbythelake.com/welcome/)

casil403
11-18-2009, 11:09 PM
Two summers ago I spent a few days volunteering to find the remains of those buried with no markers or headstones, it was sad what they did even to them at the end. Here is the history of this one institution. I have photos from there but I cannot access them right now they are on my external drives on my desk.

Asylum by the Lake (http://www.asylumbythelake.com/welcome/)

Very interesting...
That is so sad...no grave markers nothing....and that they used "patient labour" ...sounds like slave labour from the description actually..... to construct the buildings without pay or any restitution!

Mental illness has such a negative stigma attached to it.....I also have to wonder how many patients with intact cognitive ablility but physical deficits such as CP were housed in these places as well and deemed insane?

casil403
11-18-2009, 11:22 PM
Here's an article I found from Alberta:
The Famous Five - Emily Murphy - Sterilization of the Insane (http://www.abheritage.ca/famous5/achievements/reading/sterilization_insane.html)

AcadieLibre
11-19-2009, 03:45 AM
Unfortunately it was common for those deemed unfit, incorrigible, Mental Deficiencies they were sterilized all over North America, what a horrible thing that was done to these poor people. Tragic all around. Thanks for the link, very disturbed thinking behind the authour of that 1932 article and justifies it with religion, how sickening.

casil403
11-19-2009, 06:55 AM
Thanks for the link, very disturbed thinking behind the authour of that 1932 article and justifies it with religion, how sickening.
Your welcome AL...
The thing of it is, the woman who wrote that article, Emily Murphy was one of the "Famous 5"...they lobbied and eventually won the right for women to be able to vote in Canada! Before that women were considered non-persons, much like the people she writes about in her article about forced sterilization for people with mental illness.
I didn't know about this side of her until now.....how sick and ironic.
Here's some more letters she wrote:

http://www.albertasource.ca/aspenland/eng/society/article_encounter_emily_2.html

Marko
11-19-2009, 11:14 AM
I too worked with mentally disabled adults for a number of years in a previous life. Although it wasn't at all perfect, the conditions were actually decent; much better than the conditions from this essay.

I also did some photography of these residents. One of these days I'll post a few of them. Thanks for sharing the link A.L. and others!

Bambi
11-19-2009, 09:16 PM
Your welcome AL...
The thing of it is, the woman who wrote that article, Emily Murphy was one of the "Famous 5"...they lobbied and eventually won the right for women to be able to vote in Canada! Before that women were considered non-persons, much like the people she writes about in her article about forced sterilization for people with mental illness.
I didn't know about this side of her until now.....how sick and ironic.
Here's some more letters she wrote:

http://www.albertasource.ca/aspenland/eng/society/article_encounter_emily_2.html

I would be careful regarding the judging of this. I know that we look at this forced sterilization and see it as the grossest infringement on human rights. Unfortunately, for those deemed mentally unfit life was not a good existance. There was no reliable birth control and many women and children with developmental delays and mental disorders were sexually abused. Hell, women and children without developmental delays and mental disorders were (and are) sexually abused. In many ways the removal of reproduction probably did save them physical, emotional and mental harm. of course I do not agree with it, but I do see that they were doing the best they could in the circumstances they lived in.

Unfortunately there are people who should not have children and do. In the course of my work I have worked with parents who have the mental age of approxiamately 10-14 years of age. As a society if we decide that it is inhumane to deny anyone with reproductive organs the right to bear children, then it seems to me that it is encumbant upon that society to provide supports so that the children can be raised in a safe, secure and nurturing environment. I remember one case in which the mother would become angry if she didn't get to play with the toys and did not want to share with her daughter who was in therapy. the children's diet was abysmal and the care for them was substandard. The parents engaged in sexual activity in front of the children (they recognised that they weren't supposed to, but had trouble with impulse control). the home had rotting floors and there were toadstools growing on the wall in the children's bedroom. (and no, I am not making this up). As part of group of concerned health professionals we contacted social services. The result? Initially they said that 'yes, there was neglect but it wasn't intentional' so they closed the case. Later they removed the children. At no point did these parents get the support they needed to parent.

Is it better to allow inividuals to have children only to remove them? I don't know the answers. No one does. All we can do is make the best decisions with the info we have at the time. I believe that that is what individuals like Emily were trying to to. so I forgive her.

:twocents:

AcadieLibre
11-20-2009, 12:36 AM
I cannot forgive those who believed in forced sterilization for any reason. What she was doing was promoting eugenics which we all know led to the eventual champion of eugenics Hitler. Once you start down the slippery slope of denying people their human rights it leads to far larger and more horrible consequences. There is NO case for forced sterilization period then or now.

Bambi
11-20-2009, 08:38 AM
Once you start down the slippery slope of denying people their human rights it leads to far larger and more horrible consequences. There is NO case for forced sterilization period then or now.

Oh I am not disagreeing with this statement at all. Although I would argue that religious intolerance and racism contributed to Hitler's rise to power and eugenics was just the vehicle he used to express it. He was also a raving sociopath.

what I am saying is that if you use the standards of today to pass judgement on the past then no one can be forgiven. 100 years from now, we may be judged and found wanting by our descendents. I still believe that Emily was trying to sort out and prevent suffering by what she was suggesting. Was she correct-no. Are we doing any better today: a little bit. depends on where you live. Allowing children to be raised by those who are severely mentally ill and/or developmentally delayed without any supports is also wrong.

Marko
11-20-2009, 11:02 AM
what I am saying is that if you use the standards of today to pass judgement on the past then no one can be forgiven. 100 years from now, we may be judged and found wanting by our descendents. I still believe that Emily was trying to sort out and prevent suffering by what she was suggesting. Was she correct-no. Are we doing any better today: a little bit. depends on where you live. Allowing children to be raised by those who are severely mentally ill and/or developmentally delayed without any supports is also wrong.

This is an extremely important point Bambi, good on you for going there, I agree 100%. Although I (and likely the majority) disagree with the forced sterilization (and other things we now consider barbaric), judging it now is misplaced imo. The Zeitgeist then and now is like night and day.

AcadieLibre
11-20-2009, 11:09 AM
First Hitler was all about Eugenics, the Aryan Race, the Superior Race was sort of the idea and Eugenics was the plan to get them to that Pure Perfect Aryan Race. The Nazis and her were just looking to stop some suffering by advocating the sterilization of Mentally Challenged, incorrigibles and lots of other reasons to use and justify forced sterilization. Hitler was a Catholic his only religious issues where with Jewish people. besides killing them he sterilized them.

People were Sterilized, lots of them during the Eugenics Hype on how it would save us from ourselves.. She helped it become law in much of America and two Canadian Provinces, read the horror stories of what it did to people and just how ghastly and barbaric it is and was. It is not like they supported the idea and it never happened but it did happen and she was one of the causes so may she be looked down upon, hated and despised for every generation to come. I hope I am judged in a 100 years and harshly, I am not worried about it.

For further reading on it,

Compulsory sterilization - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forced_sterilization)

Nazi eugenics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_eugenics)

AcadieLibre
11-20-2009, 11:15 AM
This is an extremely important point Bambi, good on you for going there, I agree 100%. Although I (and likely the majority) disagree with the forced sterilization (and other things we now consider barbaric), judging it now is misplaced imo. The Zeitgeist then and now is like night and day.

Defending it is like defending the Inquisitions, well you know it was just how it was, same with slavery well it was just how people were. Yes it needs to be judged and there were those who opposed it, those who fought against it, so time period is not relevant here. Something so horribly wrong was never right damn the Zeitgeist.

Marko
11-20-2009, 02:57 PM
I think you miss the point A.L. and at the end of the day conversations like this boil down to Universal truths. (something I personally don't believe in but adhere to because jail scares me).

Forced sterilization is wrong by today's Western standards. Almost everyone will agree now. Was it wrong back then? You and I say yes...but what would the majority have said? Seems 'professionals' were indeed okay with it

Morality progresses at a slow pace...slavery was wrong too...by today's standards. But you and I agree that it was wrong back then as well. How far back do you want to go? 50 years? what about 3000 years? was it still wrong? It's so easy for us to sit back in comfort and judge, but to my mind the issue is more complex.

Now we get to a crazy example...infanticide of less than perfect infants. Wrong, illegal, abhorrent by today's Western standards yet practiced in the not too distant past by certain tribes when resources are scarce. Was it always wrong?

People's opinions on many topics (Homosexuality for example) change over time. Judging the mindset of previous generations by our standards has never really made too much sense to me because standards change drastically over time.

I think that was my only point.... but I'm happy to go another round or two ;) - I eat this stuff up; especially after a few beers.

casil403
11-20-2009, 03:44 PM
I find it a bit interesting that everyone is talking about forced sterilzation in terms of "back then" as if it only happened in the 20-40's. Correct me if I am wrong but I believe in Alberta forced sterilization was legal and practised right up until the 1970's.
Should people not have "known better" since then and were there not other methods of birth control available in the 70's such as the pill?
I'm just putting it out there is all.
I also agree with you Bambi about there are definitley people in this world who should not have children. Many of those people are of sound mind and body and have severe addictions with drugs and alcohol. A couple of years ago there was this homeless crack/meth addict girlwho "lived" in my neighbourhood and I watched her outside in the park where I live do her drugs, walk around trashed and try to pick up guys for money. Sadly I also watched her pregnant belly grow at the same time. This I am sorry to say is not the first time I have seen it in my neighbourhood also.
I still don't agree that Emily Murphy is a hero however and I think what she lobbied for in terms of sterilization and her treament of disabled people was wrong. I have to wonder if in her fight to get women recognized as persons...exactly which type of women was she referring to? Were all women created equal and accepted as "persons" in her mind?

Bambi
11-20-2009, 06:28 PM
Hi Casil
I am not talking about forced sterilization as back then, I am referring to Emily's writing as back then.

I believe that two people can do the same deed-the deed will be wrong, but it doesn't mean that both persons are evil. Not all slave owners were evil. the institution of slavery was evil. FWIW, slavery still exists today. It's evil.

And I stand by my argument that the reason Eugenics was accepted by the general population was due to religious intolerance and racism. The concept of the 'perfect race' simply made it acceptable/palatable.

Never ever underestimate the power of a culture to form thought. If I could wave a magic wand to make sure children were not born to drug addicted parents or pedophiles, would I? I don't know. I do know I would be sorely tempted to. But I also believe that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I was at a funeral in the summer of a good family friend. The minister during the sermon made some comments that completely shocked me. One went like this: "Mae has a message for you all. She wants to see you again in heaven and the only way you will get there is to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior". First off, Mae would never had said that in a million years. Second of all, here's a man basically saying that I will deserve to burn in hell because I do not accept his beliefs. Hopefully i can bring my own marshmallows and save some seats from friends :cool: But all kidding aside, this is the type of thought that leads to violent behavior. he then started talking about the Muslim religion and how it was fundamentally flawed.

this man is a minister, he comforts the sick in the hospital and believes himself to be a good man. Is he? Probably in some ways. Not so much in others. the same can be said of me.

I do believe that it's possible to judge an action, philosophy or cultural belief without judging the people. Until I recieve information to the contrary I will continue to believe that most of us are not all evil or all good-with some exceptions like Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Ted Bundy etc.,.

casil403
11-20-2009, 06:56 PM
The same can be said of everybody.

I still however have my opinions and am still entitled to express them. FWIW, I am not a "sheep" and live under the guise of "question everything".
And isn't it great that I live in a country where I can express that! :highfive:

Yes, she good things for women and was advanced for her time in her thinking and beliefs...I'll admit that.....but like/most everybody in this world I think she had a darker side too. She was not perfect as many people believe and I don't agree with her beliefs whether it was what was considered best at the time or not. I don't think she was evil...I never have and I never said she was...I didn't know about the other side of her until I read this article and I think it's important information to know.

Apparently it was also best to believe back then that women shouldn't vote at the time, women were non-persons, and not entilted to their husband's estate when they passed away. However she thought that was wrong and rose above the beliefs of the day and eventually won her case. But unlike many of the others she in turn opressed with her position, she had the power to be able to do that with her status and influence. :)
This is one fo those emotionally charged discussions that doesn't have a right/wrong end to it and no matter what anybody says, there will always be opinions shared. While I like them, they also get me frustrated so I was hesitant in partaking. I think I am going to leave the conversation as "we agree to disagree" here. :)

In closing though....
I often think of that crack addicted pregnant girl and what ended up happening to her as I don't see her around anymore. I can only imagine how her poor child turned out, I hope she got clean and started her life healthy...unfortunately, the same can probably not be said for the kid she had.

AcadieLibre
11-20-2009, 07:17 PM
Well I will never believe that what was done in the day even if it was socially acceptable behaviour can be forgiven or accepted. This was done to the most vulnerable of society and it should not be let go into history and say well they did not know better, some did and some spoke out but it appeared to be the panacea to the general population who without thought accepted it. And it was the supposed educated of society that sold the population this horrid bill of goods. So rather than ignore it, we need to learn from it and not excuse it as it appears that some think is the proper response to past injustices.

Understand why, maybe forgive, but never excuse it, past injustices are still injustices and if we don't learn we just repeat it over and over like we do today on oh so many issues. Marko Homosexuality is still not accepted in one of the richest and supposedly well educated countries in world, the USA actually passes laws by popular vote to deny people of their basic human rights. So we still have not learned much from our past because people still excuse it away with well it was how people were, and that makes it OK????? I am sure to those who these injustices happened to would probably agree with me.

Bambi
11-20-2009, 10:41 PM
Oh Casil, I am sorry. :sorry: I did not mean to upset you. I actually heartily enjoy these discussions because they allow me to think and then rethink my position and then to develop 'arguments' (I'm talking debate not fighting). They are more fun though over a pitcher of beer and some nachos......

I also agree with AL that we cannot forget what was done before otherwise we will never learn. Neither did I say it was okay. I can however, forgive. to a certain extent we may be splitting semantic hairs. I cannot condone the forced sterilization of others but I can appreciate the light and the dark of individuals who have influenced the world. the difficult part is that we cannot know who they are, not truly.

All I am saying is that I do not know what it was like to live in that time. Not really. Sometimes it helps me to think of my grandfather. He was a gentle and kind soul who treated everyone (regardless of race, gender, religion) with respect and kindness. One Christmas there was a huge storm. He walked up to the bus station and brought everyone back to the house for christmas dinner because he couldn't bear that they might spend it in the station. he also informed me with perfect seriousness that the reason that we never saw black hockey players was because they had 'weak ankles' and so couldn't skate. Which is a rediculous statement. We all see that. He was not a raving racist wearing a white sheet he was a good man who didn't see that his perceptions were being shaped by his culture not by thought. Sby today's standards he was racist. In his day he was called horrible names for treating black men at the factory as equals. He was sexist, believing that men were the head of the household. He also did laundry. and baked rolls that would make you weep to taste. And he believed that women should go to university. When I grew older I did tell him that this 'weak ankle theory' could not be true. He agreed with me, but what he really thought, I don't know.

I guess all I am saying is that I look at the good and the bad and I cannot condemn individuals easily. I can condemn the actions. don't even get me started on the removal of native canadian children to schools!

AcadieLibre
11-21-2009, 12:51 AM
I hope no one gets upset, one of the few forums where I can have a decent chat and even disagree and it stays friendly. This is photo forum with a bit of off topic discussion that I hope will never get out of hand, would ruin the fun I have here. I do not believe any current member would be malicious on purpose. This has been an interesting chat and I hope we have others over time. I only ever agree with me so I therefore must disagree with everyone else because I know I am right lmaooooooo :clown::clown:

Bambi
11-21-2009, 09:02 AM
I hope no one gets upset, one of the few forums where I can have a decent chat and even disagree and it stays friendly. This is photo forum with a bit of off topic discussion that I hope will never get out of hand, would ruin the fun I have here. I do not believe any current member would be malicious on purpose. This has been an interesting chat and I hope we have others over time. I only ever agree with me so I therefore must disagree with everyone else because I know I am right lmaooooooo :clown::clown:

now this statement I can agree with completely! :clap:

except for the part where you are always right, of course. That would be me. :p:p:p