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Unattached and Unhinged: The Spinster and the Psychiatrist in Liberal Italy, 1860–1922

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This article explores the role nineteenth‐century Italian psychiatric sciences played in shaping attitudes towards adult women who never married. Initially in post‐unification Italy unmarried women were largely invisible, while the bachelor appeared to threaten the newly formed nation's fragile political and social stability. In the last decades of the nineteenth century fears about the bachelor faded, replaced by growing concerns about the social dangers posed by the ‘spinster’. Drawing on writings from psychiatrists, anthropologists, sociologists, on patient records from psychiatric asylums as well as popular literature, this article traces the way psychiatric practice and theories transformed the image of the unmarried single woman.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Associate Professor of History at the University of Missouri

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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