Round Table: What would you be arrested/institutionalized/lobotomized for in the 1800/1900s?

I’m sure you have all joked with your friends about what you would be arrested for, but have you ever considered what you might be tossed in the cage for if you lived during the 1900s? There were many ridiculous reasons why a woman could end up in an institution or prison that hopefully would never occur today.


So, we at Her Campus Geneseo decided to figure out exactly what our crime would be!


Nicole Callahan

The diagnosis of hysteria was falling out of fashion by the 1900s. Probably because it had before then existed a catch-all diagnosis for “bitches be crazy.” I can imagine myself being one of the last people to get an official diagnosis, though. It's sometime in the 1920s and I am a dame on the town, aging out of proper maidenhood and into spinster territory, and my parents are getting concerned. When I was younger they found my suffragette leanings adorable, but now they find my political mind off-putting and try to encourage me to soften more in order to attract a man. They never should’ve let me attend an all women's college upstate. I find myself in a scuffle with the law when I talk smack to a local officer at a suffragette march. My parents manage to convince the court that I’m hysterical, simply out of control and they decide to institutionalize me rather than lock me up. I get out after a while and go right back to being a local menace. 


Sydney Julien 

I am really opinionated and emotional. I can’t help it! I’m a cancer sun, taurus moon and aquarius rising! I don’t know if I actually believe in Astrology but I feel like these placements help illustrate why I’d be institutionalized for something over 100 years ago. I’d also probably be one of the last locked up for my “hysteria.” I can see myself getting way too into the suffragette movement and having some sort of mental breakdown when no one will listen to me or take me seriously. Apparently some women were institutionalized simply for being “unruly” and having a lot of strong opinions so maybe that alone would be enough. At the same time, I’m a bit of a pushover; plus I genuinely enjoy cooking and find something cathartic about cleaning, so maybe I’d do just fine with a rich yet progressive husband.


Margaux Carmel

I would definitely be institutionalized for emotional instability and general mental illness, because I’m a ~woman~with~feelings~(or rather, female presenting person, which makes it even worse!) I also have ~hOmOeRoTiC fEeLiNgS~ so that is clearly a sign of emotional instability, am I right folks????


Megan Kelly

I would be institutionalized for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, especially because at that point OCD was said to result from a conflict with a person’s inner aggressive or sexually deviant thoughts (Freud’s words, not mine). Also, apparently around that time people with OCD were incapable of higher thought? I mean, I think I’m stupid, but I don’t want anyone else calling me that. So, I would be imprisoned for complaining to my parents that I need to wash my hands seven times or someone will fall ill. Also, probably homoromantic feelings as well.


Victoria Cooke



People should think twice before locking any of us up!