Event Details

A Case of Hysteria? The Altogether Shocking History of Women's Mental Health

For thousands of years, a wide range of women’s physical and mental health issues have been routinely dismissed and mischaracterized as “hysteria.” The word originates from hystera—Greek for uterus. In the fifth century BC, Hippocrates believed the organ floated through women’s bodies, causing all manner of symptoms to which women were believed to be uniquely susceptible. Even into the twentieth century, doctors postulated that disorders could be caused by mysterious imbalances in the womb, abdomen, nerves, ovaries, brain, psyche, or soul. As the field of psychiatry developed, oppressive forces—often embodied by husbands and fathers—used the threat of institutionalization to punish or exert control over wives and daughters who refused to adhere to traditional gender roles. 

While the related science has advanced in recent decades, systematic and institutional changes in women’s mental health have been slower. It remains a struggle for many women to obtain proper psychiatric treatment. Women remain more likely to be misdiagnosed, mistreated, and hospitalized in institutions where they are subject to physical restraint, electroconvulsive therapy, and psychosurgery. A Case of Hysteria? presents books, newspapers, photographs, personal letters, and other archival materials documenting the practices, consequences, and harm of the misapplication of science and pseudoscience in women’s mental healthcare. The items on display come from the USC Libraries collections as well as a group of partner institutions, including the Patton State Mental Hospital in San Bernardino and the now-closed Rockhaven Sanitarium in Glendale. 

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Free Second Sunday: Out of the Box

Join artist collective Narrative Objects in a collaborative artmaking workshop inspired by the exhibition. Enjoy docent-led tours, storytime for kids, and a special performance by students from artworxLA.

Enjoy free admission all day!

Schedule of Activities:

  • 12:00 – 4:00PM: “Out of the Box” drop-in artmaking workshop with Narrated Objects  
  • 12:30pm: Student Educator Tour of Following the Box
  • 1:00PM: Storytime with Sunny
  • 1:30PM: artworxLA student presentation
  • 2:30PM: Student Educator Tour of Following the Box

About our partners:

Narrated Objects is a creative collective that develops products to benefit causes close to their hearts. Their mission is threefold: to provide individuals with an outlet to share their diverse experiences and talents, to enrich people’s lives through unique multimedia stories, and to partner with organizations doing good.

Narrated objects was inspired by the discovery of more than 300 vintage Kodachrome slides by founder Teena Apeles and creative partner Andrea Richards when they were cleaning out the apartment of Teena’s great aunt, “Lola Tessie,” after she passed away. The slides include stunning portraits of Lola Tessie and incredible scenes of New York City and beyond during the ‘50s and ‘60s. Some of these are featured on our site and a book inspired by these slides is in the works.

artworxLA operates a long-term, sequential arts program that creatively links alternative high school students with professional artists, cultural institutions and communities to imagine, produce, and present new work.

This fall, artworxLA Advanced Programs students joined the Young Producers Group for a 10-week Music Production Residency. Using Ableton software and hardware, students learned to create original beats and soundscapes inspired by the works and themes of USC Pacific Asia Museum exhibition Following the Box. Students considered mystery, creative translation, and musical history for this cross-disciplinary project. Join us for the artworxLA Music Residency culmination, a showcase of student-produced soundscapes in the galleries.

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Spotlight Tours @PAM

Join USC PAM’s Student Educators in dynamic discussions of works of art in our collection!

Specially trained USC students will lead in-depth conversations about one object of their choosing designed to deepen your understanding and appreciation of the many cultures of Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Free with purchase of admission
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