Ten Days in a Mad House is a non-fiction book I read that checked off “a book over 100 years old” in my reading challenge list. The book was written in 1887 by a young journalist named Nellie Bly and is about her disguising herself as a “mad person” to expose the maltreatment and abuses happening in insane asylums. Through her wit she is able to get herself easily committed to Blackwell Island Insane Asylum and tells of her experience as she lived among the “mad”.
I found the book to be amazing and Ms. Bly’s courage is admirable. Putting herself in such a situation, in an age where communication was extremely limited, I was awestruck by her will to expose the inhumanity in these places. She ran the high risk of being drugged and losing her wits herself or even worse, but she courageously continued her façade even when a fellow journalist came by to check on her. She was starved and suffered bitter cold. She was humiliated and endured watching the agony of others. Because of this book she got the attention of many and began an investigation into the treatment of mental patients who had no voice. Through her and others, she brought about awareness to the poor conditions of these poor people.
Blackwell Island Insane Asylum was funded by the state and was run by the government. Because of Ms. Bly’s exposure the state did decide to increase the asylum’s budget by $1,000,000, but most things don’t get better by throwing money at it. Blackwell Island closed in 1901.
This book is a very short read, about 90 pages. Ms. Bly is an excellent journalist and I would recommend this book to anyone who likes non-fiction books. I also recommend it to anyone who likes period pieces or is a classical feminists. I would allow my tweens and teens to read it.