A Madwoman in Suburbia: In and Out of Asylums
A Madwoman in Suburbia examines my mother’s mental illness within the shifting medical practices of the last half of the Twentieth Century to personify the historical and gender-inflected aspects of mental health diagnosis and care in the United States. Here both the scientific understanding and my mother’s experience are contested truths. This work brings together the personal and the statistical to explore their reciprocal construction of mental illness within the broader play of power. Priscilla Allen Garland Dente Westberg’s personal trajectory through mental illness is set within a myriad of medical, social, cultural, economic, and emotional conditions that illuminate how gender, power, and proprietary construct illness and treatment as a means of social control. The dialogue between my mother’s story of mental illness and the medical, legal, and statistical data in the field creates a complex and nuanced narrative to contribute to growing exposure of the misunderstandings, biases, and manifest sexism that have marked the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.