This thesis is an examination of the history of mental health treatment for women in the 19th century. Fictional literature written during this time by American and English female authors is used to explore the underlying attitudes towards women who were perceived to have a mental illness. This thesis explores the three works Jane Eyre, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and The Awakening, as well as the biography of the female authors. This information is used to explore the patriarchal society represented in these works and how that is shown through the authors’ writing. The medical profession is also scrutinized through a feminist lens, more specifically how the improper treatment of mental health issues severely affected the female characters and authors. This study was conducted for the purpose of giving female voices a second chance of telling their story. Different types of mental illness are defined in 19th century terms as well as what the illness would be classified now in 2022, such as anxiety and depression. The women authors went on to lead successful lives despite the restrictions the male dominated society and medical field placed on them. Overall, these women authors used their writing to express their inner thoughts and feelings that were not socially acceptable to voice in the midst of the century.
Semester/Year of Award
Charlotte J. Rich
Mentor Department Affiliation
Open Access Thesis
Mason, Sara, "From Reality to Fiction: How Women’s Mental Health was Portrayed in 19th Century Literature" (2022). Honors Theses. 909.