Asylum Reforms

Reasons for Reform

Being Admitted into Asylums

People, specifically women and children, would be committed to asylums on unjust grounds. Conditions that would deem a person "insane" include but were not limited to


  • depression
  • alcoholism
  • genetic defects (i.e.: Down Syndrome)
  • unwanted pregnancies
  • disobedience towards husbands/males
  • voicing of unpopular opinion


Life in the Asylums


  • patients forced into crammed, filthy cells
  • patients were often chained to walls or their beds
  • disobedience would result in punishments such as whipping
  • physical restraints and hot/cold baths used to force patients into submission
"When he came to the asylum he was a strong, healthy young man, and quite inoffensive. In a few weeks he was reduced to almost a skeleton."

-The New York Times, 1880


Read more at: http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9402E1DE1F31EE3ABC4E51DFB566838B699FDE

As a Result of the Asylum Reforms...

Standard of Life in Asylums Improved

  • physical comfort of patients increased
  • treatment methods improved


Widespread Recognition of Asylum Reforms

  • over 20 American states were influenced by said reforms and acted accordingly
  • cruel punishments were outlawed in most facilities


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Influential Leaders and Contributers

Dorothea Dix


  • advocate for humane treatment of the mentally ill
  • helped establish five hospitals for the mentally ill in America alone
  • "Mental Hygiene Movement"
  • dedicated 40 years to asylum and prison reforms



Doctor John Galt


  • established the Eastern Lunatic Asylum in Williamsburg PA, the first psychiatric hospital supported by the public
  • introduced the method(s) of using medical drugs, talk therapy, and outplacement as opposed to lifelong hospitalizations
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