My Book Project

From Under the Steeples: Unearthing a Personal and Imaginal History of Asylum Ruins and Redemption blends personal memoir with fictionalized stories from a 19th century women’s mental ward known as Seven Steeples. The book links my healing journey to a wider story of collapse and renewal, represented by a farm built atop the old asylum’s buried remains.

img_0585After recovering from an inexplicable mind-body ailment, I found my way to the grounds of Central State Hospital, where a new farm had just been established. There I learned the story of Seven Steeples, the 19th century women’s mental ward buried underground onsite, and began helping the farmers grow vegetables on the land. My season of farming provides a backdrop for examining the history of my own collapse and recovery alongside accounts of women who had been committed to the asylum in the 1880s and 1890s.

img_0583Untold lives were buried with the rubble of Seven Steeples. By imagining female “inmates’” stories based on intake forms, autopsy records, and other sketchy public information, I give voice to these voiceless women.

Knowing that I myself would likely have been institutionalized in an earlier era, I feel a deep connection with Seven Steeples’ inhabitants. In linking my story to the female mental patients’ lives, I offer a larger perspective on “madness,” one that honors the potential of feminine wisdom and creative life force awakened.