The Browser Review Daily Letter 159

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Wild Women's Nerves


From The Daily Mirror,  1st August 1913

LONDON — "Breaking windows, berating policemen, placing bombs are the outward signs of a state of hysteria which can and should be dealt with by a doctor, just as any other specific disease. This hysteria — its name is suffragette neurasthenia — arises from a morbid desire to commit outrages and violent assaults, and can be treated with drugs and physic.”

This striking opinion was given to The Daily Mirror yesterday by a London doctor who has made a special study of nervous diseases among women.

"Of course", he said, "suffrage neurasthenia cannot be treated medicinally when it has reached an acute stage. It is absurd to imagine that any sort of physic will make a nerve-wracked woman suddenly change her views.

"To check suffrage neurasthenia one must go to the schoolgirl of seventeen or eighteen, who, through over-study, improper feeding or other causes, is in a very nervous and hysterical condition. When in this state a girl is morbidly susceptible. The germs of suffrage neurasthenia very easily find their way into her blood. If she is perfectly sound in body and mind she cannot possibly harbour and brood over extravagant notions and imagined wrongs. Improve the general health, strengthen the nerves and the trouble vanishes."

Another London doctor seen by The Daily Mirror on this question gave an interesting view. "Militancy is a nervous disorder of a particular kind", he said, "and I am convinced that it can be cured if treated in a careful way.

"If a militant suffragette should be placed under my care, this is how I should deal with her. I should first of all cut her off entirely from her suffrage connections. She would be taken to a nursing home, preferably in the country.

“Two kindly-disposed but firm nurses would take charge of her, and for three months she would see no one but these nurses. Any attempt to converse with the nurses on the subject of the suffrage or militancy would find no response.

“At first she would be fed on a light diet, in which milk would have a large part. In the early days of the treatment, in fact, she would be given at least three pints of milk a day, so as to induce her to absorb the greatest possible nourishment.

"I believe that many highly-strung women are led to commit mad acts partly owing to insufficient nourishment. The women are so obsessed by the militant idea that they do not pay proper attention to their food, with the result that what they do eat is not eaten in a healthy, sane manner, and therefore fails to give them the nourishment it should do.

"The whole root cause of the disease of suffrage neurasthenia is, in my opinion, to be found in the modern rush and stress of life, which has had an effect on impressionable women, and tended to make them more highly strung. This stress and rush has not affected men to any extent, because men have work to do, and therefore plenty to occupy their minds.”

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