Wandering Wombs


I was reading in my psych text recently about how back in pre-Freudian times when women suffered from “hysteria” they decided that it was caused by a “wandering womb”. The root word of “hysteria” is from a Greek word that means “uterus”. The malady had various manifestations, including spontaneous blindness, partial or even full paralysis, inability to speak, unexplained pain in various body parts, and of course a multitude of mental illnesses.

Since they thought then that only women suffered from this malady, they naturally deduced that it must be caused by the uterus, because men don’t have them. Yep. Then, to explain why the pains and paralysis would migrate to different parts of the body, they came up with the idea that women’s uteruses would “wander” around inside of them, wreaking havoc wherever they went.

It raised some interesting questions in my mind. As well as an observation or two. For instance:

What if a pregnant woman’s womb decided to “wander”?

Did other organs and body parts also spontaneously take off on jaunts around the anatomy?

Could it be that perhaps all those 18th and 19th century artists were actually realists, and that people back then actually LOOKED like that?

The whole corset thing suddenly makes a lot of sense, too. I’d be wearing a full body corset, myself. Lock those rebellious body parts down and keep them where they belong!

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