Women's Madness: Misogyny or Mental Illness?
In this exhaustive and wide-ranging history of the diagnosis and treatment of women with mental illness Ussher ( The Psychology of the Female Body ) raises the question: Does female ``madness'' in reality represent a sane response to a society designed to keep women in check? Ussher's own mother was diagnosed as mentally ill during the author's adolescence. In seeking to understand her mother's experience, including her ``cure'' via electro-convulsive therapy and drugs, Ussher takes a historical look at the treatment--more often torture--of women who were feared because they were different, and who were thus labeled mad. The author even goes so far as to suggest that premenstrual syndrome and postnatal depression are unsustainable theories that keep women at the mercy of their biological selves, mere extensions of the Victorian school of thought that labeled women the ``weaker sex.'' As an academic text, Ussher's deconstruction of female madness and its treatment is surefooted and thorough; as a historical recounting of women's experiences with mental illness, it is radicalizing and sobering. (Feb.)