Asylum

Crazy Jane: A Temperance Story

The Lily, the first newspaper for women, was issued from 1849 until 1853 under the editorship of Amelia Bloomer (1818-1894).  Published in Seneca Falls, New York and priced at 50 cents a year, the newspaper began as a temperance journal for “home distribution” among members of the Seneca Falls Ladies Temperance Society, which had formed in 1848.

Most issues contained at least one anecdotal tale highlighting the dangers of alcohol abuse.

Crazy Jane

A few months ago, we visited the Poor House in a certain county in this state, and after being shown the various departments, the gentlemanly keeper conducted us to rooms occupied by the insane, where we beheld a strange melee of strange beings, among whom was a female, in whose countenance we detected the remains of an almost unearthly beauty—and while ruminating upon the probable cause of the apparent change, she suddenly darted forward, and throwing her arms around our neck, imprinted a burning kiss upon our cheek, while she addressed us in the most refined language, as her husband, making earnest inquires for her dear little Mary, and a great number of others, probably her former friends and associates. It was not until we had answered all her questions, and satisfied her as far as our fancy enabled us to, that she could be induced to relax her hold upon us, and not then until she had exacted a solemn promise that we would visit her again soon, accompanied by little Mary.

As we left the room, and the door closed behind us, which shut out the world from the unfortunate inmates, Jane (for so the keeper called the object of our attention) hurried to the grated window, and kissing her hand, bade us remember our engagement to visit her again soon. As we turned from her there was an expression on her countenance—a strange commingling of joy and grief, which still haunts our memory—visits us amid the busy scenes of life—and which an age would not suffice to efface from our memory.

An interest thus naturally awakened, led us to inquire into the history of “Crazy Jane,” as we afterwards learned was the cognomen assigned her by the citizens of the vicinity. The story is soon told. 

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Newspapers Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily, The Revolution, and the National Citizen and Ballot Box.

She was once the loved, admired, and happy daughter of a wealthy citizen of the county. At the age of eighteen she was married to a man every way her equal—possessed of property, character and influence. But in an evil hour he tasted the intoxicating cup, became infuriated, and in a few years fell from his exalted position to a level with the brute—and on one occasion, while in a fit of drunken anger, laid violent hands on his wife, who, true to her woman nature, had clung as fondly to him as in the days of his prosperity.

Immediately on recovering from the effects of the blow, a change came over her spirits, and in a few weeks she was a confirmed maniac. Her once fond, but now brutal husband, forsook her, and with none to care for her, she was conveyed to the county house, where we found her, and where she will probably remain until her delicate person is carelessly deposited in a rough box, and borne by stranger hands to the pauper’s last refuge—a lone and unvisited grave. But, thank God, there is a rest in reserve for the weary spirit—a home for the deserted and friendless —there is an eye that watches over earth’s forsaken ones—a hand that bestows mercies and blessings in a way we know not of, even in this life; and in the far off fields of future thought, will clothe the disembodied spirit in robes of celestial light; where the remembrance of cold neglect and unmerited censure will not fall upon the ear—and where the heart, which, while on earth, was burdened until it broke, will glow and expand with joys immortal in the paradise of God.

Reader, the above is no fancy sketch, but a plain, unvarnished tale of truth, in all its essentials.

Source: The Lily, February 1849

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