The ideology of insane asylum reform, which emphasized the Enlightenment language of human rights and the humane treatment of the mentally ill, reached American shores in the early-mid-nineteenth century. When asylum reform began to disseminate throughout the United States, forward-thinking Mississippians latched onto the idea of the reformed asylum as a humane way to treat mentally ill Mississippians and to bolster the humanitarian image of a Southern slave society to its Northern critics. When the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum opened in 1855, its superintendents were optimistic about the power of the state to meet mental healthcare needs. While Mississippi slave society was incredibly wealthy, it was not proportionally progressive, and the idealism of the asylum supporters encountered the stark reality of Mississippi’s anti-statist culture and legislative austerity, as well as the limits of the nascent field of psychology. Mississippi ultimately proved exceedingly resistant to reform. By the beginning of the twentieth century, overcrowding, underfunding, and racial psychology had spurred the asylum officials to deemphasize treatment and transform the insane asylum solely into a holding cell for the mentally ill.
|Advisor:||Ownby, Ted M.|
|Commitee:||Levitt, Theresa H., Wilson, Charles R., Young, John|
|School:||The University of Mississippi|
|School Location:||United States -- Mississippi|
|Source:||DAI-A 78/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||American history, Science history, Public policy|
|Keywords:||Eugenics, Insane asylum, Mississippi, Nineteenth century, Political history, Southern history|
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