2013 Ohioana Book Award Finalist
“Anyone who peruses Ziff’s work will not have an easy time putting it down. This book is more than a history of a time, a place, a movement, and a people. It is instead a sensitive and centered examination.… Her portraits of people who influenced the asylum are wonderfully rendered … alive and moving.”
Samuel T. Gladding, Wake Forest University
“This well-written, accurately researched historical work tells the story of the Athens Lunatic Asylum…. This is a work that brings the reader inside the life and times of patient care in Ohio. Asylum on the Hill is highly readable, enlightening, and for those who currently work in the field of psychiatry, the story is familiar and somewhat poignant…. Highly recommended.”
“People interested in the history of Ohio University’s Ridges property—and there are many such in this area—may think they’ve struck a gold mine if they open a new book issued by the OU Press.”
The Athens News
“Asylum on the Hill provides a valuable contribution to nineteenth-century American history and to the history of medicine.”
Indiana Magazine of History
Asylum on the Hill is the story of a great American experiment in psychiatry, a revolution in care for those with mental illness, as seen through the example of the Athens Lunatic Asylum. Built in Southeast Ohio after the Civil War, the asylum embodied the nineteenth-century “gold standard” specifications of moral treatment. Stories of patients and their families, politicians, caregivers, and community illustrate how a village in the coalfields of the Hocking River Valley responded to a national impulse to provide compassionate care based on a curative landscape, exposure to the arts, outdoor exercise, useful occupation, and personal attention from a physician. Although ultimately doomed by overcrowding and overshadowed by the rise of new models of psychiatry, for twenty years the therapeutic community at Athens pursued moral treatment therapy with energy and optimism. Ziff’s fresh presentation of America’s nineteenth-century asylum movement shows how the Athens Lunatic Asylum accommodated political, economic, community, family, and individual needs and left an architectural legacy that has been uniquely renovated and repurposed.
Katherine Ziff is an assistant professor in the department of counseling at Wake Forest University. A former school counselor, she has published in places such as the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, the Journal for Specialists in Group Work, and History of Psychiatry. She presents workshops for counselors and educators on ArtBreak and is also an exhibiting artist.
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