Author (Your Name)

Jenny Higgins, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Open Access)


Colby College. Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program


Arendell, Terry

Second Advisor

Cheshire Calhoun

Third Advisor

Pamela Blake


The construction of the ideal Victorian woman as an invalid, weak, delicate, and perpetually prone to illness could not have been maintained without the support of the medical profession. Late nineteenth-century medical ideas embodied and incorporated, explicitly or implicitly, social ideas about women-their nature, role, abilities, and limitations. The medical profession was persuasive and powerful in shaping women's roles, and this influence took on a wide variety of forms. This paper examines one of these forms-the treatment of women in a hospital setting, and how this treatment both reflected and perpetuated existing social understandings of Victorian femininity and gender roles. I achieve this investigation through the content analysis of 400 hospital records from Maine General Hospital in Portland, Maine at the height of the Victorian Era (1874-1882). The main issues I examine include: the history and rise of Maine General Hospital, physicians' roles and approaches, class differences in Victorian health constructions, hysteria, and uterine disease.


Women -- Hospital care -- History -- Maine -- 19th century, Women's health services -- History -- Maine -- 19th century