From blasting powder to tomato pickles
Patient work at the provincial mental hospitals in British Columbia, Canada, 1885–1920
in Work, psychiatry and society, c. 1750–2015
Abstract only
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This chapter examines how Medical Superintendents produced and manipulated information published in the Annual Reports to promote the efficacy of patient labour as either a therapeutic regime or one of fiscal responsibility during the developmental years of the provincial mental hospital system in British Columbia. Focusing on concepts of gender and race, the Superintendent’s narratives highlighted issues important in the province. This included discussion of the many construction and maintenance projects to the mention of the anti-Chinese sentiment prevalent in the young province. The statistical tables, somewhat more subtly imbued with gendered and racial notions, reported the overall output of patient labour. While the narrative section always opened the Report, over time the Superintendents shifted the position of the statistical tables. When paired with patient outcome, the tables implied that labour was crucial to mental improvement, yet when included in the financial section, the same tables suggested that the hospital was not a drain on the public purse.

Editor: Waltraud Ernst

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