The thesis of Women and Madness is that because the mental health system is patriarchal, women are often falsely labeled as being “mad” if they do not conform to stereotypical feminine roles. Chesler traces this mistreatment, which includes physical as well as mental abuse, back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Powerfully, Chesler discusses the history of putting women in mental institutions, the widespread use of addictive sedatives to control women, and the definition of “lesbianism” as mental illness. Her book articulated the mental “illness” experiences of women and, in drawing attention to the power hierarchies in the practice of the psychiatry, began to make change.

FROM National Women’s Health Network