Melanconiche d’altri tempi. Le pazienti del manicomio di San Clemente a Venezia (1873-1904)

Autore: Adriana Salviato
In: Genesis. II/1, 2003
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Old-time melancholics: the female inmates of San Clemente madhouse in Venice (1873-1904)
The goal of this study is the reconstruction of a collective history of the female inmates at the Venetian madhouse of San Clemente through the analysis of about 700 hospital files. These have been selected on the basis of the diagnosis at the moment of the admission. Object of research have been all women admitted from 1 July 1873 (day of the establishment of the hospital) to 1904 (year of the enactment of the first Italian law on madhouses) with a diagnosis of melancholy. This category embraced an heterogeneous universe of women: peasants with pellagra consumed by malnutrition, “dissolute” servants, often mixed up with “meretricious women of wrong doing”, middle class wives and mothers, and some nuns unsatisfied of the cloistered life. Through the analysis of medical observations one can reconstruct the attitude of psychiatrists towards these marginal female characters. This is a period when the control and the management of the physical space of the asylum is assigned to the alienist doctor who had to assure some form of “healing” to the inmates, although not necessarily with the goal to return them to society as good wives, mothers, or, on the other hand, less dissolute and elusive women.