Tuhina Kazi
Ms. Kiley
AP Language & Composition Period 6
3/17/15
The "Rest Cure"
Inventor of the rest cure, Silas Weir Mitchel was an influential American neurologist developed the rest cure during the late 1800s to treat hysteria, neurasthenia and other illnesses that involved nervousness. The cure was prescribed generally more towards women than men and was frequently used to treat anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder that is characterized by an abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of body weight. It was directed towards females due to the lack of understanding regarding women and was almost always applied to women of middle to upper classes since working class women were thought to be less susceptible to hysteria. The rest cure kept some patients out of asylums and others alive even though some patients and doctors considered the cure to be worse than the disease itself.
The rest cure usually lasted six to eight weeks and it involved isolation from friends and family while enforcing bed rest and a nearly constant feeding on a fatty, milk-based diet. The patients receiving the cure were force-fed if necessary and were reduced to the dependency of an infant. Nurses cleaned and fed them, and even turned them over in bed. To maintain muscle tone doctors used massage and electrotherapy. Patients were sometimes prohibited from talking, reading, writing, and even sewing.
The cure boosted the patient's weight and increased blood supply. It also removed the patient from a potentially toxic social atmosphere at home. Though the inherent point was that the neurologist broke his patient's will. Mitchell believed the point of the rest cure was both physical and moral. Some outspoken and independent women like the writers Virginia Woolf and Charlotte Perkins Gilman had received the rest cure. They responded furiously against the rest cure and the doctors that put this treatment into practice. They wrote about their experience while receiving the cure and later other feminist scholars argued that the rest cure reinforced an old-fashioned and oppressive idea that women should submit obediently to male authority because it was deemed good for their health.
While worried and anxious women were put to bed to rest, Mitchell treated men by sending them out to the West where they were supposed to engage in cattle roping, hunting, rough riding, and male bonding. This became known as the "west cure". The rest cure ensured that women stayed where they belong, in the home. Men receiving the cure were encouraged to engage in vigorous physical activity in the West and write about their experiences while women were prohibited from doing the simple task of rolling over in bed on their own. Even though men and women could experience the same symptoms, the different treatments both genders received revealed the cultural stereotypes during that time.

Works Cited
-Anne Stiles, January 2012, Go rest, young man http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/01/go-rest.aspx

-Tricia Ellis-Christensen, March 2, 2015, What is a Rest Cure? http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-rest-cure.htm

-Wellcome Library, London, Rest cure http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/techniques/restcure.aspx#TB_inline?height=250&width=450&inlineId=glossary_3902