Faculty Advisor

Kimberly Jensen

Faculty Advisor

Todd Shaffer

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Mental illness in the United States has been part of a complex history. Many details of mental hospitals and the treatment of its patients have been omitted from popular literature and media. These patients were subjected to harsh treatment and forced to undergo extreme therapies that doctors claimed would improve their condition. In particular, female patients were also affected by the events that occurred during the early twentieth century, namely World War I and the Great Depression, and the stigmas of race and gender that they caused. Mental illness remained an understudied topic for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but historians in recent decades have taken up the task of studying mental illness and revealing mistakes and challenges of the past. This paper incorporates the work of these historians, such as Joel Braslow and Gerald Grob, as well as the examination of two female patient files from Oregon State Hospital in the 1920s. These patients and their institutionalization served as a reflection of society and how it affected the concept of mental illness during that time period.

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