Dr Lynsey Black (Maynooth University)
Associate Professor Catherine Cox (University College Dublin)
Diagnosing Insanity: Women, Murder and Mental Health in 20th-century Ireland
UCD Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland Seminar Series, 20 September 2018
Mad, bad, sad – the familiar tropes deployed to explain women who kill. This paper explores the cases of three women who were convicted of murder in post-independence Ireland and who were understood through discourses of pathology. Taking these three cases, we can begin to see the ways in which ‘madness’ was applied at the individual level. The archival files demonstrate how diagnoses were contingent and inseparable from prevailing conceptions of gender, morality and class. The cases reveal the behaviours categorised as ‘sane’ and ‘insane’, routes to redemption, and the work of respectable femininity as a protective factor.
Lynsey Black is a Lecturer in Criminology in the Department of Law at Maynooth University. She received her PhD from Trinity College Dublin, this work examined the cases of women sentenced to death in post-independence Ireland. She was an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellow at University College Dublin from 2016 to 2018. She researches gender and crime, historical criminology, and the death penalty.