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

Monday, August 28, 2017
10:00 AM - 4:00 PM (ET)
MAGILL MAGILL Sharpless Gallery
Event Type
Hochberg, Rachel A

August 28 - October 15, 2017

Sharpless Gallery, Magill Library


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. This exhibit includes Friends' Asylum records and other related materials from Quaker & Special Collections, and comes out of the Quakers and Mental Health digital project, found at

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