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The London Lock Hospital in the Nineteenth Century

Gender, Sexuality and Social Reform

Maria Isabel Romero Ruiz

Based on archival research, this volume is concerned with the treatment of «fallen women» and prostitutes at the London Lock Hospital and Asylum throughout the nineteenth century. As venereally-diseased women, they were treated in the hospital for their physical ailments; those considered ripe for reform were secluded in the asylum for a moral cure. The author analyses the social and cultural implications arising from the situation of these female inmates at a time when women’s sexuality was widely debated, using a gender-informed and postmodernist approach.
The volume covers notions of purity and deviancy, issues of gender and sexual identity, the social and cultural issues connected with so-called fallen women and prostitutes, and descriptions of venereal disease and treatments for women patients at the time. The Contagious Diseases Acts and their impact are examined, as are the social and cultural implications of the creation of specialised hospitals and places of moral confinement. The book provides a complete picture of the Lock Hospital and Asylum and is an important contribution to the history of hospitals in the Victorian period.
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CHAPTER 3: Female Patients and the Lock Hospital Regulations throughout the Nineteenth Century


← 56 | 57 → CHAPTER 3

The beginning of the nineteenth century brought with it the discourse of social medicine which was based on the surveillance and regulation of the poor to avoid immorality and the spread of contagion and disease to the decent population. The idea that financial expenditure should be checked was behind the debate over state intervention and public funding. This idea was shared by both Tories and Whigs in Parliament. Issues connected with the health of the people were the province of local authorities and voluntary initiatives. Therefore, the moral and medical concepts of health and disease focused increasingly on the habits and moral atmosphere of the working poor, and hospitals and similar institutions began to apply the new technologies of social disciplining based on the mental and physical regulation of inmates. Illness and corruption were associated with the lower classes, and were considered as natural in them.1 As far as sexually transmitted diseases were concerned, the struggle between classes and faiths provided the context for changing attitudes at the turn of the eighteenth century. Sexual control and social restraint together with love of God and respect for non-religious authorities were increasingly propagandised as characterising the middle classes. Diseases such as cholera or syphilis began to be seen as the punishment of sinners, and things such as drunkenness, dirtiness or any other kind of uncontrolled behaviour were regarded as causes of infection and contamination. Thus, both the working poor and the aristocracy were stereotyped as improvident...

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