Dangerous Motherhood is the first study of the close and complex relationship between mental disorder and childbirth. Exploring the relationship between women, their families and their doctors reveals how explanations for the onset of puerperal insanity were drawn from a broad set of moral, social and environmental frameworks, rather than being bound to ideas that women as a whole were likely to be vulnerable to mental illness. The horror of this devastating disorder which upturned the household and turned gentle mothers into disruptive and dangerous, mad women, was magnified by its occurrence at a time when it was anticipated that women would be most happy in the fulfillment of their role as mothers.
'Dangerous Motherhood is a tour de force of scholarship, which exploits a wide range of little-tapped sources to bring the poignant case histories of manic and depressed women to life. Marland fastidiously delineates the ambivalent attempts of Victorian obstetricians, asylum doctors, and general practitioners, as well as of families and husbands, to understand, classify and respond to the often bizarre and disturbing behaviour of these women. In doing so, she charts the veritable creation of a new female malady - 'puerperal insanity' - a 'dangerous' (if normally transient) affliction that not only transgressed the norms and expectations surrounding motherhood, but threatened the very integrity of the Victorian household.' - Dr Jonathan Andrews, Department of History, Oxford Brookes University
'Using a wealth of asylum records, case notes, diaries and medical texts, Hilary Marland's scholarly book, Dangerous Motherhood, provides a rich window into some of the anguish puerperal insanity could inflict on women and their families, and the variety of ways medical practitioners explained its cause and sought to treat it. Dangerous Motherhood not only provides a vivid study of the specific Victorian conditions that led to the rise and fall in the fascination of puerperal insanity, but a powerful insight into the relationships between doctors, patients and their families in this period.' - Medical History
'The variety and volume of primary source material that Marland consults in her history of puerperal insanity, from its conception in the early nineteenth century through to its demise in the early twentieth, leads to a wide-ranging and richly evidenced discussion of its cause, treatment and outcome.' - Beth Wright, Women: A Cultural Review