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JAMA 100 Years Ago
September 8, 1999


Author Affiliations

Edited by Jennifer Reiling, Editorial Assistant.

JAMA. 1999;282(10):924H. doi:10.1001/jama.282.10.924

Some years ago one of the health officers of New York City stirred up self-appointed representatives of the "new woman" by his remarks on the production of nervous prostration in husbands by the nagging of wives. The novelists devote much attention to the self-sacrifice of the wife to the hypochondriac husband, but the reverse of the picture is too well known to physicians. The hysteric nagging wife of the insane or neurasthenic husband is a familiar acquaintance. . . . The puritan matron, like her descendants, however, was often a hysteric. The eighteenth century statutes anent the use of the ducking-stool—which still survive in Delaware—demonstrate the recognition of nagging as an antisocial vice by the fathers of the republic. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, hysterics were far more frequent than is usually supposed, and that minor form of hysteria which takes the direction of motor restlessness was peculiarly apt to voice itself in nagging. Indeed, in the "Comedy of Errors," which appeared in 1593, Shakespeare indicates that, according to popular opinion of that time, husband nagging produced not only nervous prostration but even insanity. In Act V, Scene 1, the Abbess endeavors to ascertain the cause of the alleged insanity of Dromio of Syracuse, in the dialogue with Adriana.

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