Is there anything sadder than the thought of a child growing up in an insane asylum? According to the tour guide at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, children did live here.
In fact, many babies were born to residents here. The mother’s ability to care for her child was assessed by doctors and any number of things could happen to a baby. It could be left with the mother, raised by nurses in the asylum’s nursery, given to relatives or adopted by strangers.
Women in asylums had no rights, no voice and no input into their own care or what might happen to their own kids. Many were committed for flimsy reasons or by husbands who simply wanted out of the marriage without the shame of divorce.
We should be ashamed of the way we treated women in those days. But the way we treated their children? I cannot even imagine.
A tour of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is enlightening and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in architecture, mental health treatment, women’s issues or history.