Remembrance of Patients Past: Patient Life at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane, 1870-1940
'Oh that I had wings I would fly like
a dove and be at rest I would fly out
of this asylum ....'
So wrote Ralph M., a patient at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane from 1889 until his death in 1911. Winston O., another inmate at the Toronto asylum, actually sought to build wings like Ralph so longed for. After crafting violins that he played and building from scratch an automobile he was allowed to drive on the hospital grounds, Winston was reported to be working on the construction of an 'aeroplane'.
In Remembrance of Patients Past, historian Geoffrey Reaume chronicles seventy years of daily life at the institution known as 999, the Toronto Hospital for the Insane at 999 Queen Street West. His narrative stretches from 1870 to 1940 and examines such aspects as diagnosis and admission, daily routine and relationships, leisure, patients' labor, family and community responses, and discharge and death. Mental patients were at times abused, and they led lives of tedious monotony that could tend to 'flatten' personality, yet many of these women and men worked hard at institutional jobs for years and decades on end, created their own entertainment, and formed meaningful relationships with other patients and staff. A moving chronicle, the book is also an important argument for flexibility in treatment for mental illnesses and a challenge to the view that traditional mental institutions were of little help to their patients.
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