Judi Chamberlin and the Fight Against Institutionalizing Women


In this piece for Rooted in Rights, s.e. smith chronicles the life of Judi Chamberlin and discusses the important role she played at the intersection of the Mad Pride, psychiatric survivor, disability rights, and women’s liberation movements.

“Chamberlin’s role in the movement intersects heavily with how psychiatry has been abused to keep women in the margins. She was forcibly institutionalized in 1966 after she had a miscarriage and sought help with depression. Her doctor suggested she go to the hospital, which she did — and then she discovered that she couldn’t get out. During her time on the wards, she witnessed the abuse of other patients and quickly learned that she’d need to lie if she wanted to secure her release, hiding her feelings and performing for the people around her to project an image of recovery. She reflected:

‘I was consumed with the clear conviction that there was something fundamentally wrong here. Who were these people that had taken such total control of our lives? Why were they the experts on what we should do, how we should live? Why was the ugliness, and even the brutality, of what was happening to us overlooked and ignored? Why had the world turned its back on us?'”