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A HISTORY OF THE ASYLUMS FOR THE INSANE IN MICHIGAN

BY HENRY M. HURD, M. D.


The establishment of the Michigan Asylum for the Insane, at Kalamazoo, was the outcome of a philanthropic movement for the relief and care of the insane, inaugrated by Dorothea L. Dix, then of Boston, whose life was consecrated to humanitarian work. Through her efforts asylums were established in many eastern, middle and western States. She collected information, visited poor houses, jails and receptacles, and, as the result of her observations, importuned legislatures until asylums were established in many States. Although she did not visit Michigan, the wave of influence which she created reached her boundaries. Prior to the opening of the Michigan Asylum, the insane of the State were cared for at home in attics, log pens, or cellars, often deprived of light, air and adequate warmth in winter, or were placed in county houses, receptacles, jails, lockups and strong rooms. If the insane were reputed harmless they were permitted to wander aimlessly and irresponsibly about the country. They slept in barns, under straw stacks, or in unoccupied buildings. Frequently they visited farmers during the night, and were the unwelcome guests of strangers. One of the most vivid recollections of my childhood was the spectacle of a refined looking young woman going about the country in the winter time, thinly clad, carrying In her arms two cornstalks, which she called her children. She was a case of puerperal mania, which had once been curable, but through neglect and the lack of provision for her curative treatment had become hope-Lessly insane. A few days since I saw a newspaper paragraph containing her name as the resident of a county poor house in the southern part of the state, where she was living at an advanced age.

MICHIGAN ASYLUMS


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