“A Touch of the Blue Devils”: Women, Mental Health and Self-Care in England, 1750-1850
Anna's project examines sources that unite themes of women’s mental illness, mental health and self-care between 1750 and 1850.
Applying issues integral to the medical humanities, including contagion, protection, agency and self-care, to these primary sources, it asks: how did women manage and maintain their mental health during these years? And how was this management impacted or influenced by the dissemination of celebrated “madwomen” across culture?
The project seeks to identify female-authored manuscripts which discuss experiences of mental health and illness, such as “low spirits” and “blue devils”, alongside instances of independent treatment that can be identified as self-care.
It will also explore these themes through letters that discuss the period’s celebrated “madwomen”; including Margaret Nicholson, King George III’s would-be assassin who was sent to Bethlem Hospital in August 1786, and Louisa, Lady of the Haystack, a mysterious Bristol-based figure who was patronised by the philanthropist and writer Hannah More in the early 1780s.