My research

I don’t actually remember what I entitled my initial proposal and to be honest I am still not one hundred percent sure where I am going with it. The core of the thing is menstrual mood disorders (PMT, menarche and menopause), essentially looking at how they were constructed and treated in the 1930s. However this is one of those subjects where I am pretty much forging new ground. The way my research develops literally depends on what I can find and I am struggling with a lack of secondary material directly related to the subject.

One of the leads I have been following is a lady called Mary Chadwick who was a trained nurse and a Freudian psychoanalyst in the 1920s and 30s. In 1932 she wrote a book called ‘The Psychological Effects of Menstruation’ which she followed up with ‘Adolescent Girlhood’ and ‘Woman’s Periodicity’in 1932 and 1933. In total she wrote 8 or 9 books between 1925 and 1940, the majority of which were written for a general audience (and often ran to several editions). She also contributed articles to a wide range of journals.

If you google her you will come up with a couple of references to her analysis of Hilda Doolittle (HD), the Imagist poet. She also appears in a lot of lists with the same female analysts- those who studied at the Medical-Psychological Clinic in London and fellow child analysts. Occasionally there is a reference to her being the first English child psychoanalyst or her issues with Melanie Klein.

I had to do a LOT of research and came up with a timeline of her life and a little bit about where she stood in the psychoanalytical world. She is an utterly fascinating person and it really is such a shame that she has become so overshadowed by some of her psychoanalytical contemporaries.

My next stage is to look at where she fits into the nineteenth thirties, which involves research into psychiatry, physiology, medical research, menstruation, hormones, vitamins, the historiography of witchcraft, anthropology, eugenics, sexology, feminism, periodicity, theories of sexual difference, reflex theory, gynaeology, nursing practice, adolescence and psychoanalysis. All of which are new to me. My next task is to submit a tentative bibliography to my supervisor within the next two to four weeks. Exciting, but there are a lot of subjects there I know nothing about….at all.

My spirits have been lifted a bit by a massive bargain I came across the other day. I have coveted ‘The hygiene of life and safer motherhood’ by Arbuthnot Lane for weeks but it was £42 and I can’t justify that. It’s a series of articles from popular health writers that he put together in the mid-thirties, one of whom was Chadwick. I have the personal supplement to the book which is brilliant (it’s on the special problems of women) but I needed the book for my research.

I came across it on Abebooks, two volumes for £2 and £3 delivery. I took a chance and ordered it anyway expecting the worst. This time my gamble paid off. The thing is huge and beautiful and includes another copy of the personal supplement as well. It’s heavy so I definitely got a massive massive bargain. So happy!

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