In blocks 7 and 8, two Colorado College classes (Tomi Ann Roberts’s Feminist Psychology of Embodiment and Tricia Waters’s Women and Madness) visited Special Collections to view our mini-exhibition, Books About Sex. (Subtitle: “These books may be about sex, but we can’t promise you will find them sexy”). In addition to the materials in the display, students looked at 16th-century-and-forward health manuals such as the two described here, annual reports of the the Colorado State Hospital, 20th century books on how to please your husband, Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood pamphlets, and more.
Students imagined what they would highlight if they were doing their own exhibitions. One student noticed that some women, but never any men, were admitted to the then-named Colorado Insane Asylum in the 19th century because of “domestic trouble.” Another student looked for what we would now call “consent” in Marabel Morgan’s 1973 advice book The Total Woman. Yet another student pointed out that the women in the exercise illustrations in Sex Revelations and the New Eugenics (1936) wore high heeled shoes and very little else. We all appreciated the “Remedy for Hysterics (or Mother-Fits)” in John Homan’s 1856 Long Lost Friend: A Compendium of Mysterious & Invaluable Arts & Remedies, which involves pressing one’s thumb against one’s chest and reciting “Matrix, patrix, lay thyself right and safe…”
A possible title for the classes’ imaginary exhibitions emerged: “Useful Tips to Keep You Out of the Asylum.”