Employee Frustration

Unruly Patients at Blackwell's Island, from Harper's Magazine, 1860

Employees at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians didn’t always get along, and the institution’s first big inspection proved that. Dr. Turner had a beef with superintendent Gifford (see last post), but some employees had a beef with Turner.

One attendant in particular, Mary J. Smith, found her work difficult in part because of Turner’s instructions. He did not like to use restraints and wouldn’t often authorize them, but Smith said that she couldn’t do all of her work unless she locked certain patients in their rooms. Her 1908 affidavit stated:

“Doctor had forbidden her to lock certain patients up without his permission . . . ‘he told me if I was doing my duty I would have her (Mary LeBeaux) outside instead of locked in her room, at that time I had locked her in for throwing a cuspidor at me’.” The inspector taking the statement said that “she has marks on her body where the patient has bitten her and has thrown cuspidors at her repeatedly.”

This kind of situation was a quandary for attendants at all asylums: how to handle violent patients without resorting to restraints or reciprical violence. One solution was to call in enough attendants so that the patient could be safely restrained by humans until he/she calmed down. Unfortunately, Canton Asylum had too few attendants for this to be a feasible solution.

Woman Forced Into Cold Shower, from Elizabeth Packard's book Modern Persecution, or Asylums Revealed

Child Patient in Restraints, Georgia State Hospital for the Insane (1940s), courtesy Georgia State University



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