The Gender Politics of Criminal Insanity: "Order-in-Council" Women in British Columbia, 1888-1950

  • Robert Menzies
  • Dorothy E. Chunn


Between 1888 and 1950, 38 women were confined for indeterminate periods to British Columbia’s psychiatric system under executive “Orders-in-Council”. Enlisting clinical, organizational, and government records, the authors explore the psychiatric practices of control through which a male medico-legal establishment strove to comprehend and discipline these “criminally insane” women. The authoritative discourses and activities that shaped these women’s forensic careers reflected a gendered conception of social order that was hegemonic during this period. Such discourses helped to fashion the images of women, crime, and madness that continue to permeate public and official culture.