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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Farm, Field and Fireside: Health and Hygiene

A guide to health and wellness topics in the Farm, Field and Fireside collection of farm periodicals. Supplements the main Farm, Field and Fireside guide.

Overview: Mental Hygiene

"We have long intended to write an article on insanity among farmers; it having been several times published that they have more of it than people of cities; it has also been stated that farmers' wives are most subject to it of all."1

The farm periodicals promoted a self-help approach to mental health: in most cases, good mental health could be achieved through proper self discipline (see the short article "Search Yourself!"). The medical profession gradually extended itself into this area,2 and the farm periodicals reflect this shift with advertisements for fraudulent "medical treatments" (see "Doctor Sweany's Electro-Medical Treatment"), and an increasing reliance on articles penned by medical "experts", who alone could explain the mysteries of mental health to readers (see "The Health of the Farm Woman" by Caroline Hedger, M.D.).

In Farm, Field and Fireside

Terms: "mental deficiency" (variant: "mentally defective"), "mental disease", "mental illness", "mental unsoundness", "mentally unsound", "nervous disease", "nervous illness", "nervous prostration", "nervous affection", "nervous exhaustion", neuralgia, neurasthenia, derangement, hysteria, hysterics, epilepsy, insane, insanity, "feeble minded", alcoholism, dipsomania, pellagra, imbecility, idiocy, mania, melancholia, dementia, madness, lunacy, insomnia.

Treatments: "rest cure", asylums.

Other terms: "mental health", "mental hygiene", "moral health", "moral hygiene", "nervous energy".

Other Sources

H. Misc. Doc. 42, pt. 21. 47th Cong., 2d Sess. (1883).
Report on the defective, dependent, and delinquent classes of the population of the United States, as returned at the 10th census. Serial Set Vol. No. 2151, Sess. Vol. No. 13.
H. Misc. Doc. No. 340, pt. 26. 52d Cong., 1st Sess. (1892).
Report on the insane, feeble-minded, deaf and dumb, and blind in the United States at the 11th Census. Serial Set No. 3031, Sess. Vol. No. 50.
S. Doc. No. 11. 57th Cong., 2d Sess. (1903).
Statistics of crime, suicide, insanity, and other forms of abnormality, and criminological studies ... Serial Set No. 4417, Sess. Vol. No. 2.
S. Doc. No. 12. 58th Cong., Special Senate Session (1904).
Statistics of crime, suicide, insanity, and other forms of abnormality, and criminological studies, with a bibliography ... Serial Set No. 4556, Sess. Vol. No. 1.
Beard, George. American Nervousness: Its Causes and Consequences. New York: Putnam, 1881.

Further Reading

Gamwell, Lynn, and Nancy Tomes. Madness in America: Cultural and Medical Perceptions of Mental Illness Before 1914. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995.

Grob, Gerald N. The Mad Among Us: a History of the Care of America's Mentally Ill. New York: Free Press, 1994.

-----. Mental Illness and American Society, 1875-1940. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1983.