For over 500 years, women have found themselves being labeled as frigid, insane, and even labeled her as a weaker species. What Suffering of Women Who Didnt’ Fit examines are the attitudes, ideas, and responses to women who were viewed as mad in Britain. Moving from the Middle Ages, to the Puritan period, and into Victorian, David J. Vaughan details the issues that women faced in a misogynistic society.
At the heart of these issues was the anatomy of women, while in the modern day we know these concepts are not true, women were seen to go mad once a month and being solely influenced by the temperamental nature of her uterus. Terms such as menstrual madness, puerperal insanity and ‘Old Maid’s Insanity’ appear in texts from the period and are not the only thoughts that existed. The Middle Ages emphasized demonic possession and turbulent humours and the Puritans feared witches and the seeming madness of women. The Victorians then held the horrors of wrongful confinement and unnecessary surgeries.
Vaughan examines a great deal of information in this work that showcases the variety of ways in which women have been seen in society as mad any time they acted outside of their standard role. I had briefly looked into this topic while researching witchcraft and later crime in different areas of Europe. Some of the elements that led women to be seen as insane were often connected to their sexuality. Men would be seen as victims of their passions for women, because women had led them to behave inappropriately. This was just one of the ways in which women were seen as mad or imparting madness. It was even believed that just having female sex organs predisposed you to insanity. Vaughan examines these ideas thoroughly and with a number of strong resources. This work is a strong examination of women in history, which shows how chauvinistic views impacted society overall. Women were often seen as second class citizens and this shows their struggle to push away from that. If you are a interested in women’s history The Suffering of Women Who Didn’t Fit is the perfect read for you.