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August 1935


Author Affiliations


Arch NeurPsych. 1935;34(2):390-400. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1935.02250200150011

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In the beginning of the nineteenth century there stood in the eastern outskirts of Paris, close by the Gare d'Orléans, a group of buildings which for many years functioned as a hostel for infirm and abandoned old women. Built in the reign of Louis XIII, it served its original purpose, that of an arsenal, for only a little over fifty years. This was sufficiently long, however, to ensure the perpetuation of the name, Salpêtrière, with which its early association with saltpeter, an essential ingredient of gunpowder, had invested it.

In 1656 it was converted by St. Vincent de Paul into an asylum where old women, abandoned prostitutes and the frankly insane were herded together in a motley, indiscriminate array of unwanted womankind. Later, the prostitutes were moved to other quarters, but for more than a century it remained a very ordinary asylum, with all the horrors and cruelties incidental to