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A Tidy Little Woman: Mental Health Help – Victorian Style | John Wake

A-DAY-IN-COURT

The old methodology of dealing with mental health problems, was not via psychotherapy or drugs, on many occasions it was via arrest, and the police were obviously at the front line. I have often written about people attempting suicide being dragged before the courts. This poor woman from the 1880s is a prime example.

Pollie, 38 yrs old, was a ‘tidy little woman’ which meant in the vernacular of the times, a good woman and a good wife. She was living in a small terraced house at Eisteddfod Street, Temperancetown (all now gone) but had moved to live with a lady friend at adjacent Raven Street, said to be a tenement with the kitchen in a cellar.

Pollie was found one morning in the cellar kitchen in a state of distress. She told her friend that she had taken five pennyworth of laudanum and she wanted to die. She explained that her loving boy had gone to his grandfather in Gloucester and she did not want to live any more. The police were called, and she was arrested for attempting to commit suicide. She was conveyed initially to the workhouse infirmary where her stomach was pumped out. She was then taken to the cells and finally appeared in front of the magistrates. Pollie could be fined or even sent to prison. She promised the magistrates that she would never try to kill herself again, as she knew it was an offence, and she was a law-abiding woman. It was her first time in court. She magistrates took her by her word and discharged her. What happened next I do not know.

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A Tidy Little Woman: Mental Health Help – Victorian Style | John Wake

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