Tag: Institutions

Pictures of an Institution: Birth Records at Old Blockley

On September 22, 1859, 30-year-old Margaret Merchant of Philadelphia was admitted to the obstetrical ward at the Blockley Almshouse. She was pregnant with her sixth child — a boy, though with the ultrasound almost exactly a century in the future, Mrs. Merchant could not have known that at the time. A mother of five, Mrs…. Read more →

Sex, Secrecy, and Abuse in a 19th-Century Workhouse

“He asked him if he had seen the doctor having connection with a nurse.” Archives pose constant distractions. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve mentally stored away a snippet not directly relevant to the task at hand, but to be used somewhere, at some indefinable point in the future. It’s one of… Read more →

Ghosts are Scary, Disabled People are Not: The Troubling Rise of the Haunted Asylum

This past spring, the defunct Willard Psychiatric Center (previously known as the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane) in Ovid, New York, opened its doors for tours — one day only, with no advance sale tickets. I immediately made plans to make the two-hour drive — after all, for the past few years, I’ve been working… Read more →