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  • 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

  • #2
    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.
    Pat D. https://forum.casebook.org/core/imag...rt/reading.gif
    ---------------
    Von Konigswald: Jack the Ripper plays shuffleboard. -- Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut, c.1970.
    ---------------

    Comment


    • #3
      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

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by curious4 View Post
        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

        Comment


        • #5
          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

          Comment


          • #6
            Perhaps this is girls-only territory?

            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.
            Pat D. https://forum.casebook.org/core/imag...rt/reading.gif
            ---------------
            Von Konigswald: Jack the Ripper plays shuffleboard. -- Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut, c.1970.
            ---------------

            Comment


            • #7
              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

              Comment


              • #8
                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.
                Pat D. https://forum.casebook.org/core/imag...rt/reading.gif
                ---------------
                Von Konigswald: Jack the Ripper plays shuffleboard. -- Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut, c.1970.
                ---------------

                Comment


                • #9
                  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, 09:46 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    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.
                    Pat D. https://forum.casebook.org/core/imag...rt/reading.gif
                    ---------------
                    Von Konigswald: Jack the Ripper plays shuffleboard. -- Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut, c.1970.
                    ---------------

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Pcdunn View Post
                      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.
                      Hello Pat

                      Sounds interesting! I will ask my daughter to look out for it when she is in London.

                      All good wishes
                      Gwyneth

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Hello again Pat

                        Your ancestor must have been a very strong woman. It is a pity these women rarely get the attention they deserved. I have read the autobiography of an American woman who was kidnapped by Native Americans and chose to stay. Fascinating - can't remember her name and my books are in a mess just now so I can't look it up. The journalist who wrote the article I mentioned seemed to think that real women lay all day looking pale and interesting on a chaise longue!

                        I find the background to the JTR murders, the workhouses, the reformers and the whole of East End history as interesting as finding the murderer, so stumbling across Dr Baker Brown opened up a whole new area of investigation.

                        Best wishes
                        Gwyneth
                        Last edited by curious4; 11-10-2015, 10:36 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Apparently before he died Brown suffered from nervous prostration and paralysis, and the nurse cutting his balls off didn't make him feel one jot better.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Indeed!

                            Originally posted by Robert View Post
                            Apparently before he died Brown suffered from nervous prostration and paralysis, and the nurse cutting his balls off didn't make him feel one jot better.
                            Was that really his fate? Certain irony, if so!
                            Pat D. https://forum.casebook.org/core/imag...rt/reading.gif
                            ---------------
                            Von Konigswald: Jack the Ripper plays shuffleboard. -- Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut, c.1970.
                            ---------------

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I'm joking about the balls.

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