Letters from patients of the State Lunatic Asylum: The Moody and Townes Letters, 1835 and 1884

 

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Document Description:

These three letters illustrate the daily life of a patient in the asylum during the nineteenth century. Two of these letters were written by patients at the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum to their family members, and the third was written by a state official to a patient's family. The primary treatment for the mentally ill in the antebellum years was "moral treatment."  Doctors and reformers, such as Benjamin Rush, believed that kindness and no physical punishment would cure the mind.  Patients also engaged in activities such as gardening, handicraft, and games.  Patients with severe illnesses often underwent bleeding or "heroic medicines." These medicines, such as mercury, usually caused more harm than good. The experiences of the patients shown in these three letters explores the impact of the asylum on the lives of the people it tried to help.

Citations:

Bates, W.T.C., letter to R. J. Moody, 25 February 1884. Moody Family Papers. Manuscripts Division, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.

Moody, Jane, letter to Richard J. Moody, 7 August 1884.  Moody Family Papers.  Manuscripts Division, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.

Townes, Henry, letter to Rachael Townes, 6 May 1835.  Townes Family Papers.  Manuscripts Division, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.

Correlating Social Studies Academic Literacy Elements:

 
A. Distinguish between past, present, and future time
   
B. Establish chronological order in constructing one’s own historical narratives
   
D. Create and interpret data on time lines
   
 

Note: Although this document was originally posted as part of a lesson specifically designed to teach the above standard(s), other Social Studies Standards may apply

 

Additional Flash Versions:

Letter from W.T.C. Bates to R. J. Moody, 25 February 1884
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Letter from Jane Moody to Richard J. Moody, 7 August 1884
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Letter from Henry Townes to Rachael Townes, 6 May 1835
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Lessons Using This Document:

Too Large to be a Lunatic Asylum: South Carolina’s Mental Health


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