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Indiana Commission on Public Records

ICPR > State Archives > Collections > Central State Hospital Collection: Index > Work Work

Physically able patients spent most of their days working. Early in the century, work was more recreational -- merely a means of occupying the time of bored patients. As the century progressed, however, work became more regimented and production oriented. Clearly, the new industrialism of Victorian period had influenced "work therapy" at Central State Hospital (CSH).

During the early years of CSH, women's work was confined to sewing, knotting, and knitting. Later in the century, the influence of industrialization became apparent in women's work at the hospital. The introduction of garment piece work in the nineteenth century and sewing machines in the early twentieth indicated that industrialization had crept into the minds of CSH physicians and into the work rooms of the hospital.

A similar pattern emerged in men's work at the hospital. Early in the century, able male patients worked on the hospital farm or manicured the hospital's lawns and gardens. Later, other forms of hard labor were introduced such as excavating land for the hospital's new boilerhouse and digging trenches for steam pipes. Early in the twentieth century, CSH built a canning factory for patients and purchased new machinery for the men's work room. The hallmarks of nineteenth-century industrialization, such as factories, and steam and electric power, had transformed patients' work.

Work, most likely, was an effective therapy for mentally-ill people in this period. Yet, it also served important political and social functions: politicians and the voting public alike wanted reassurance that patients who left CSH would become productive Hoosiers, rather than dependents of the state. Requiring patients to work while they received treatment at CSH was one way to encourage patients to work after their discharge.