What is it about?

Women are included in the early history of psychiatry rarely, if at all. When they are, it is either as fictional mad characters or as asylum matrons. In contrast, Susan Carnegie was a woman who saw a problem and solved it, resulting in the first asylum in Scotland and one of the first for those born into poverty in Britain.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Two pioneers of humane treatment of mental illness are the focus of well-deserved praise: Philippe PInel who practiced in Paris and William Tuke of York Retreat. Susan Carnegie, a child of the Scottish Enlightenment and whose work predated theirs, deserves to be as well known.


This work is the result of 15 years of research in archives and libraries that began at Bethlem Royal Hospital, London. It would be ten years before I found my way to the NHS Tayside Archives University of Dundee, Scotland. There I first learned about Carnegie through A. A. Cormack's biography. It would be two more years before my first trip to the Special Collections Centre of the University of Aberdeen which houses Carnegie's extensive personal papers. They are relevant to anyone interested in a thinking woman's life in the late 18th. and early 19th centuries.

Sharlene Walbaum Walbaum
Quinnipiac University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The invisible woman: Susan Carnegie and Montrose Lunatic Asylum, History of Psychiatry, June 2019, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/0957154x19860035.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page