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Anna P Brinkle - 1880s - Committed to an Asylum

Excerpted from "Retail Therapy" - Voiced by Kate Preszler

I don’t think any woman in America is better qualified than I to supply the material for a good sermon on insane asylums – for I was locked up in one for twenty-eight years. My story is simple, I was put in the asylum for two reasons: the first was that I was extravagant and too fond of dress. What a lot of asylums there would be if all people whose natures were like mine had to be locked up. The other reason was that my family wanted me relieved of the disgrace of publicly accused of obtaining good sunder false representations, by resorting to the insanity defense, which, nowadays seems reserved for the use of defendants in murder or arson cases. You see, I had purchased some furniture on credit, then I found a larger flat that was furnished. Not needing the furniture any longer, I sold it. The mercantile from which I bought it said this was theft. I was committed by recommendation of two physicians one of whom was my father. It was all to preserve the family name, but once in it was not so easy to get me out. My father -- if he was truly trying – died during my fourth year of incarceration. The nurses are untrained yet hired to care for the insane. They beat us whenever they wish. The best way to get on their good side is to do their work for them. Sweep, clean, help in anyway you can.

I entered the State Hospital for the Insane in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1857. I left in 1894 after a new lunacy law was introduced. I secured my own release by writing – repeatedly – to the committee who after investigation ordered my immediate release. At the age of sixty, I am once more free. Even for this much I thank Him in whose unfailing love, in the darkest hours of my trial, I never lost faith.

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