‘Bedlam on the East River’

The NY Times published a book review of ‘Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad and Criminal in 19th Century New York’ by Stacy Horn.


The review is worth reading and has lots of SRV lessons that would be worth reading and discussing (e.g., as part of an SRV discussion group).

The island was called Blackwell’s in the 18th century, after a family living on the island, then later Welfare Island (in the 20th century), and today has been renamed Roosevelt Island.

According to the review, this two mile island in the East River was the site of the New York City Lunatic Asylum, a smallpox hospital, and a penitentiary. Eventually, two additional island (Randall’s, Wards) also become the sites of institutions.




The famous 19th century reporter Nellie Bly pretended insanity in order to be sent to the asylum on Blackwell’s, and then wrote an expose for a New York newspaper.


Note the segregation and congregation of unwanted peoples out of New York City, and onto islands away from the local populations of societally valued people.


The reviewer points out some of the language used to describe the buildings and programs, such as ‘lodge’ and ‘retreat;’ which may be examples of detoxifying language. The name changes from Blackwell’s to Welfare, and from Welfare to Roosevelt, are also instructive from an SRV perspective.

Much more to explore from an SRV perspective, such as poverty and impoverishment, rejection, and death making. Nellie Bly’s work might be seen in part as an example of trying to foster interpersonal identification. According to the review, it involved governmental efforts to make structural change, and so on.

Posted on July 2, 2018 at 10:28 am by MTumeinski · Permalink
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: ,

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.