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Go Back   Casebook Forums > Ripper Discussions > Doctors and Coroners

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  #1  
Old 11-06-2015, 05:20 AM
curious4 curious4 is offline
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Default Dr Isaac Baker Brown

I have come across a reference in the book "Bedlam, London and its Mad" by Catharine Arnold, to a doctor Isaac Baker Brown. It seems that in the mid 19th century he performed what is now called genital mutilation on many women, seeing it as a cure all for anything from mental illness and hysteria even to eye problems (!). He was eventually stopped when it was revealed that he had been "curing" women in mental hospitals, for which he lacked a licence. It seems that he was a friend of Forbes Winslow and both he and Sir William Gull contributed to a fund to help him when he became ill.

In true Victorian spirit much of his notes etc were apparently destroyed. This is what I have been able to find on the internet and it does give some insight into the Victorian attitude to the female body and sexuality.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Baker_Brown

https://uclhistoryofmedicine.wordpre...rown-part-1-3/
https://uclhistoryofmedicine.wordpress.com/2013/01/

http://www.academia.edu/13044061/Exp...ical_Discourse

It seems that doctors had finally accepted that mental illness was not caused by the womb travelling round the body - although if mine decided to go walkabout I'm sure it would unbalance me!

Best wishes
C4
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  #2  
Old 11-06-2015, 06:39 AM
Pcdunn Pcdunn is offline
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Hello, C4,

You've found some good links here. I have always been struck by the hypocrisy of the Victorian age when it came to sexuality.
Appearances were all, and a man might frequent brothels, if he was discreet and had a wife waiting at home. Of course, she wasn't allowed the slightest license, and if she did slip-- God help her.
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Von Konigswald: Jack the Ripper plays shuffleboard. -- Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut, c.1970.
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  #3  
Old 11-06-2015, 06:51 AM
curious4 curious4 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pcdunn View Post
Hello, C4,

You've found some good links here. I have always been struck by the hypocrisy of the Victorian age when it came to sexuality.
Appearances were all, and a man might frequent brothels, if he was discreet and had a wife waiting at home. Of course, she wasn't allowed the slightest license, and if she did slip-- God help her.
Hello PcDunn

Yes, a really risky time for any independant woman! He performed this "op" on women who wanted a divorce as well. And without informing the women beforehand. It did cross my mind that the Victorian missionaries might have been responsible for introducing this to Africa and other places, but I think that might be pushing it a bit. It would be interesting to know when this practice started there though.

Best wishes
C4
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Old 11-06-2015, 06:58 AM
curious4 curious4 is offline
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Hello PcDunn

Yes, a really risky time for any independant woman! He performed this "op" on women who wanted a divorce as well. And without informing the women beforehand. It did cross my mind that the Victorian missionaries might have been responsible for introducing this to Africa and other places, but I think that might be pushing it a bit. It would be interesting to know when this practice started there though.

Best wishes
C4
No, can't blame the missionaries, appears it goes back centuries.

C4
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Old 11-06-2015, 08:03 AM
curious4 curious4 is offline
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Hoping this thread won't be dismissed as in bad taste. I for one wasn't aware that genital mutilation by doctors existed in Victorian times.

C4
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  #6  
Old 11-06-2015, 11:45 PM
Pcdunn Pcdunn is offline
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Default Perhaps this is girls-only territory?

Quote:
Originally Posted by curious4 View Post
Hoping this thread won't be dismissed as in bad taste. I for one wasn't aware that genital mutilation by doctors existed in Victorian times.

C4
I don't think it is in bad taste at all, C4. However, our majority of gentlemen posters may not feel up to discussing this subject.


Alas, I'd come across the atrocities performed on Victorian women years ago by stumbling over a scholarly article. I suspect if Brown had been experimenting on workhouse women, instead of hospital patients, no one would have minded about his not getting permission.
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  #7  
Old 11-08-2015, 04:17 AM
curious4 curious4 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pcdunn View Post
I don't think it is in bad taste at all, C4. However, our majority of gentlemen posters may not feel up to discussing this subject.


Alas, I'd come across the atrocities performed on Victorian women years ago by stumbling over a scholarly article. I suspect if Brown had been experimenting on workhouse women, instead of hospital patients, no one would have minded about his not getting permission.
Hello Pat

It only goes to show how vunerable women were. Prostitutes were considered to be nymphomaniacs (!), so perhaps this could give an insight into why the killer mutilated his victims in the way he did. These women were "the poorest of the poor" and some had left their husbands (undutiful wives). The way he left the bodies just as they lay shows (to me at least) that he had utter contempt for his victims and considered them worthless, perhaps less than human. The view of women as unstable and liable to mental illness was widespread, even Prince Albert reputedly lived in fear of Queen Vic losing it altogether! Perhaps it was just as well he died young!

Best wishes
Gwyneth
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Old 11-08-2015, 12:30 PM
Pcdunn Pcdunn is offline
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Hi, Gwyneth,

You've got a point there, lol.

The sad thing is that women were under the control of the men in their lives, and if you upset or "inconveniced" your husband, brother, father, guardian, etc.-- you could be sent to an asylum or hospital on very vague reasons.
Single women could at least own their own property.
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Von Konigswald: Jack the Ripper plays shuffleboard. -- Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut, c.1970.
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  #9  
Old 11-09-2015, 09:42 AM
curious4 curious4 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pcdunn View Post
Hi, Gwyneth,

You've got a point there, lol.

The sad thing is that women were under the control of the men in their lives, and if you upset or "inconveniced" your husband, brother, father, guardian, etc.-- you could be sent to an asylum or hospital on very vague reasons.
Single women could at least own their own property.
Hello Pat

Yes, very true and it is worrying that female circumcision is still going on and also in the West, although for "cosmetic" reasons, as was the case in ancient Greece, where it apparently began for that reason! I do think there are echos of the "good" doctor's so-called cure in Jack's mutilations. It does seem a shame that people are shy of discussing this. We look at horrific photographs and discuss really dreadful murders and mutilations quite easily, after all!

And as you say, the way women were controlled at the time shows how they were regarded as lesser beings. I read a lovely newpaper article from the time by an American, comparing English and American women, and while he admitted that Englishwomen were more robust and kept their looks longer, American women were much more delicate and feminine. I take it he wasn't talking about the pioneer women!

Best wishes
Gwyneth

Last edited by curious4 : 11-09-2015 at 09:46 AM.
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Old 11-10-2015, 08:23 AM
Pcdunn Pcdunn is offline
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Point taken about pioneer women! One of my mother's ancestors was a widow with several daughters; they all came West from Virginia by wagon after the Civil War, accompanied by an old former slave. Daring thing to do, then, I'm sure.

And that fellow wasn't talking about slave women, or Native American women, or the immigrant farm-wife who did as much work on the sod house farm as her husband. These are all threads in our American heritage, if not appreciated then.

Have you read a novel called "One Thousand White Women"? It is a great historical novel, based on the fact that one of the treaty requests made by Native Americans was that they trade horses for white women to wed to their warriors. The author imagines that the government accepted the deal, and started trying to collect women from prisons and asylums (volunteers, of course) to send out west. Very good read.
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