Interesting Facts About Asylums

  • In the early days a woman could be committed to an asylum by her husband, father, or  brother without her consent.  
  • John F. Kennedy's sister, Rosemary, had a prefrontal lobotomy in 1942.  Her father arranged for her to have the lobotomy without her consent and didn't even bother to tell her family.  The lobotomy left her partially paralyzed, incontinent, and unable to speak coherently.
  • Suffering from "Political Excitement" could result in you being committed. For a list of additional reasons click here 

  • Approximately 50,000 lobotomies were performed in the U.S. between 1936 and the late 1950's. They were even performed on children as young as 13 years of age.
  • Most asylums were originally constructed to house 200-250 patients. By the 1950's some housed over 2300 patients. 
  • Thousands of patients who died were often buried in unmarked graves in the asylum's cemeteries. Those that were marked, were frequently identified by only a number.   Not only are these graves difficult to locate, in some cases the actual cemetery's location is unknown.

  • Hydrotherapy was a common form of therapy used in asylums.  The patient was restrained in a large bathtub with a canvas cover that allowed only the patient's head to remain exposed.  When hot water was used it relaxed the patient, similar to taking a hot bath today. Ice water was also used to calm the patients. Although the ice water had a similar calming effect, it has since been determined that this was due to the patient suffering from acute hypothermia.




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