Deprived of the Use of their Reason: Quakerism & the Curability of Mental Illness at Friends’ Asylum, 1817–1867 – Multi-day, 2017

This exhibit traces the history of the first private mental institution in the United States.

August 28 to October 15

Haverford College
370 Lancaster Ave., Haverford, PA 19041

When Friends’ Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of their Reason opened its doors in 1817, it offered something new to the Quakers of Philadelphia: a promise to cure insanity. The first private mental hospital in the United States, its designation as an “asylum” marked it as an institution that provided assistance to people in need. The founders of Friends’ Asylum sought to alleviate the tensions that insanity, understood as deviance from nineteenth-century standards of rationality, caused for Philadelphia’s Quaker families. Friends’ Asylum drew on techniques from a variety of traditions to cure insanity and restore patients to their families. It grounded its therapies in the culture and spirituality of Quaker communities, in contemporary ideas about health and reason, and in the expertise of medical science.