About | Quakers & Mental Health


The Quakers & Mental Health portal launched in the summer of 2015 as an iterative website to hold scholarship about the history of mental health in Philadelphia, in the 19th and 20 centuries, and in particular of Friends Hospital, the first private mental health institution in the United States. This multi-year project combines archival research and writing with digital scholarship to create and support scholarship on the history of mental health, to analyze data and create visualizations from that research. The Friends Hospital records, which are on loan to Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections, offer a wealth of information on Quakerism, the treatment of the mentally ill, and the development of American psychiatric hospitals in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Friends Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of their Reason was founded in 1813 by a group of Philadelphia Quakers who were concerned about the state of mentally ill Quakers. The Asylum was established upon the Quaker idea that there is that of God in every person, and that mental illness does not change that fact. Under the leadership of Isaac Bonsall as the first superintendent, and a group of other influential, soon-to-be Orthodox Quakers, the Asylum started accepting patients in 1817. The touchstones of life at the Asylum were community and religious life, and these were to become part of its unique take on moral treatment.


Student Interns

Summer 2019

Colin Battis '21, Chapel Hill, NC

Major/Minor: Environmental Studies/Creative Writing

I worked this summer to research and write an essay on how patient care at the Asylum changed and was influenced by new developments in medicine during the late decades of the 19th century, a period that hadn’t previously been the subject of much focus. I also worked to write several new pieces for the website that would expand on this research and fit in with the website redesign, and together with Yuying worked on a visualization of how management of the Asylum changed over time.

Yuying Rong '20, Chongqing, China

Major/Minor: Biology/Theater

With guidance from the team, I renovated the Quakers & Mental Health website from back end to front end: tidying up directories and files, rewriting scripts, unifying templates and layouts, fixing bugs, making the webpages responsive to different screen sizes, and rebuliding Bokeh-served data visualization with Plotly.js. Colin and I also created new contents. The website is now easier to navigate and more accessible to a wider range of audience.

Summer 2018

Ben Kaplow '18, California

Major/Minor: Sociology/Philosophy

This summer I wrote a major essay on Universalism & Particularism in Quaker Philanthropy: 1770-1830. I also write three smaller essays around these topics: Quaker theology and familial socialization, Moral treatment and the family, and philanthropic networks. Also, I collaborated with Yasmine on visualizations to support these essays.

Yasmine Ayad '19, Upper Darby, PA

Major/Minor: Computer Science

For the summer, I completed several projects for the QMH portal. I worked with Ben on visualizations to support his essays. I also worked on a framework to streamline the process for publishing short essays to the website. I created a data visualizations dashboard, which researchers can use to create their own graphs and charts of the data. Finally, I also published tutorials to explain these features to share with the broader community.

Summer 2017

Alison Rosenman '20, Mercer Island, WA

Major/Minor: Computer Science/Economics

I worked with Claire this summer to understand the Asylum's patients in closer detail. I created the visualizations throughout the website which focus on religious diversity and how gender affected patients' treatments and experiences, as well as the map of patient hometowns. I hope that these visualizations bring the data from Haverford's Friends Asylum collection to life and that future scholarship can come out of our work for the summer.

Claire Michel '18, New York, NY

Major/Minor: Pyschology/Economics

I have been working, along with Alison, to research and describe what it was like for individuals of different religions, genders, and races within the asylum. I conducted research in Haverford’s Special Collection on the different experiences of unique individuals in order to paint a more complete picture of life in the asylum. The research I have been doing has become part of a essay on what it was like to live in the asylum with different identities.

Summer 2016

James Truitt '17, Washington, DC

Major/Minor: History/Linguistics

Along with Maddie, I did research and wrote labels for Deprived of the Use of their Reason. In addition to curating the exhibit, I wrote a short piece on patient employment and amusement. I hope that our exhibition will encourage others to explore the rich history of Friends' Asylum.

Madison Arnold-Scerbo '18, Red Lion, PA

Major/Minor: History/Museum Studies

I worked alongside James to curate and write labels for the physical exhibit Deprived of the Use of their Reason that will be on display in the Sharpless Gallery of Haverford's Magill Library. We spent most of the summer reading through materials in the collection and writing labels for them. I also created data visualizations about the type and causes of mental illness at Friends' Asylum which can be found throughout this website.

Summer 2015

Abby Corcoran '17, Greensboro, NC

Major/Minor: History/English

Along with Lindsay, I spent the summer researching the early history of the Friends' Asylum. I looked at how the founders' Quakerism influenced their ideas about the curability mental illness, and wrote an essay using this research. The research that Lindsay and I have been doing will create a framework for future projects about Quakers and mental health, which will be housed on the website that Lindsay has created.

Lindsay Silver '15, Hingham, MA

Major/Minors: English/Computer Science, Spanish

Working in conjunction with Abby, I am creating a website which focuses on the framing research she has been doing all summer. For the website, I am also looking at ways we can extract data from the collection which can then be included in interesting and interactive visualizations online. I also hope to create the website in such a way as to lay the groundwork for future digital projects related to Quakers and mental health.

Haverford College Faculty and Staff Coordinators

  • Mary Crauderueff, Curator of Quaker Collections
  • Darin Hayton, Historian of Science
  • Sarah Horowitz, Head of Quaker & Special Collections
  • Terry Snyder, Librarian of the College
  • Emily Thaisrivongs, Metadata Librarian
  • Mike Zarafonetis, Coordinator of Digital Scholarship and Research Services
  • Laurie Allen, Coordinator for Digital Scholarship and Services
  • Alison Sielaff, Project Archivist
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