A brave and brilliantly researched intellectual history of the relationship between women and mental illness since 1800.
One of the consistently fascinating and disturbing aspects of Mad, Bad and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors is Lisa Appignanesi's assiduous tracking of the modishness of what might be mistaken for a sui generis discipline. Of course, as anyone who has visited a psychiatric hospitalor ridden the subwaycan attest, crazy is what we call people who refuse to conform to accepted norms of behavior. And the definition of nonconformity must change in step with styles of conforming…While Mad, Bad and Sad echoes and enlarges upon Elaine Showalter's book The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980, Showalter's perspective is more exclusively feminist, arguing that psychiatry as practiced on women is a history of their subjugation and control by men. But as Appignanesi makes clear, women have had no little role in creating and fulfilling the definitions of their madness.