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Money, Marriage, and Madness: The Life of Anna Ott

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Anna Ott died in the Wisconsin State Hospital for the Insane in 1893. She had enjoyed status and financial success first as a physician's wife and then as the only female doctor in Madison. Throughout her first marriage, attempts to divorce her abusive second husband, and twenty years of institutionalization, Ott determinedly shaped her own life. Kim E. Nielsen explores a Anna Ott died in the Wisconsin State Hospital for the Insane in 1893. She had enjoyed status and financial success first as a physician's wife and then as the only female doctor in Madison. Throughout her first marriage, attempts to divorce her abusive second husband, and twenty years of institutionalization, Ott determinedly shaped her own life. Kim E. Nielsen explores a life at once irregular and unexceptional. Historical and institutional structures, like her whiteness and laws that liberalized divorce and women's ability to control their property, opened up uncommon possibilities for Ott. Other structures, from domestic violence in the home to rampant sexism and ableism outside of it, remained a part of even affluent women's lives. Money, Marriage, and Madness tells a forgotten story of how the legal and medical cultures of the time shaped one woman—and what her life tells us about power and society in nineteenth century America.


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Anna Ott died in the Wisconsin State Hospital for the Insane in 1893. She had enjoyed status and financial success first as a physician's wife and then as the only female doctor in Madison. Throughout her first marriage, attempts to divorce her abusive second husband, and twenty years of institutionalization, Ott determinedly shaped her own life. Kim E. Nielsen explores a Anna Ott died in the Wisconsin State Hospital for the Insane in 1893. She had enjoyed status and financial success first as a physician's wife and then as the only female doctor in Madison. Throughout her first marriage, attempts to divorce her abusive second husband, and twenty years of institutionalization, Ott determinedly shaped her own life. Kim E. Nielsen explores a life at once irregular and unexceptional. Historical and institutional structures, like her whiteness and laws that liberalized divorce and women's ability to control their property, opened up uncommon possibilities for Ott. Other structures, from domestic violence in the home to rampant sexism and ableism outside of it, remained a part of even affluent women's lives. Money, Marriage, and Madness tells a forgotten story of how the legal and medical cultures of the time shaped one woman—and what her life tells us about power and society in nineteenth century America.

45 review for Money, Marriage, and Madness: The Life of Anna Ott

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    Yet another woman’s life rescued from undeserved obscurity. I’d never heard of Anna Ott and I wager that not many other people have either. But what a life hers was. Highly educated, she was the first female doctor in Madison, Wisconsin, but her personal life went horribly wrong and she ended up being institutionalised. This is a truly fascinating book on so many levels – women’s personal and professional lives, social mores and preconceptions, the medical profession, treatment of the mentally i Yet another woman’s life rescued from undeserved obscurity. I’d never heard of Anna Ott and I wager that not many other people have either. But what a life hers was. Highly educated, she was the first female doctor in Madison, Wisconsin, but her personal life went horribly wrong and she ended up being institutionalised. This is a truly fascinating book on so many levels – women’s personal and professional lives, social mores and preconceptions, the medical profession, treatment of the mentally ill, marriage and the patriarchy. It’s a great read for anyone interested in social history, women’s and gender studies, or just those who want to learn about one woman’s life.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Long

    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a fascinating book for so many reasons. The author did an amazing amount of research for this book. I wish there were more records of information on Anna Ott to fill in the gaps but it just doesn't seem to exist. Great job to the author for writing this important book. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a fascinating book for so many reasons. The author did an amazing amount of research for this book. I wish there were more records of information on Anna Ott to fill in the gaps but it just doesn't seem to exist. Great job to the author for writing this important book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    Wow. An amazing, very well written and researched biography of Anna Ott. I learned so many things and would love to discuss some of the topics and history brought up.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Denice Langley

    With all of the recent focus on women's history and how the efforts of so many brilliant women were wasted and ignored, how have I never heard of Anna Ott? Kim E Nielson introduces us to a woman whose contributions to her community and her science could have been so much more if she had been born 100 years later. So many younger women can not believe what history has shown them of the treatment given to any woman who dared exhibit talents and skills that could threaten the men surrounding her. D With all of the recent focus on women's history and how the efforts of so many brilliant women were wasted and ignored, how have I never heard of Anna Ott? Kim E Nielson introduces us to a woman whose contributions to her community and her science could have been so much more if she had been born 100 years later. So many younger women can not believe what history has shown them of the treatment given to any woman who dared exhibit talents and skills that could threaten the men surrounding her. Dr Ott's life can serve to reinforce the many periods of history that she struggled through to finally end in a mental institution when she questioned the system that kept her "in her place". Ms Nielsen has written her story with such feeling that you immediately are angry at the men in Dr Ott's life. This is truly an excellent read and an excellent trip through a period in American history that bears witness to the progress we have made.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Janie Anderson

    # Money, Marriage, and Madness: The Life of Anna Ott by # Kim E. Nielsen. Anna Ott died in the Wisconsin State Hospital for the Insane in 1893. She enjoyed status and financial success. First as a physician's wife and then as the only female doctor in Madison.Throughout her first marriage, attempts to divorce her abusive second husband, and twenty years of institutionalization. Thank you, # Netgalley, # Kim E. Nielsen, and # University of Illinois Press for the advanced copy # Money, Marriage, and Madness: The Life of Anna Ott by # Kim E. Nielsen. Anna Ott died in the Wisconsin State Hospital for the Insane in 1893. She enjoyed status and financial success. First as a physician's wife and then as the only female doctor in Madison.Throughout her first marriage, attempts to divorce her abusive second husband, and twenty years of institutionalization. Thank you, # Netgalley, # Kim E. Nielsen, and # University of Illinois Press for the advanced copy

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Bannister

    I Enjoyed everything about this book there was nothing I didn't like about the book. I Like the story that was being told.I like the setting,the writing style,the plot,the plot twists and the characters in the book were amazing.I would gladly reread it again.I also like the concept of the book.I Would recommend this book to anyone. I Enjoyed everything about this book there was nothing I didn't like about the book. I Like the story that was being told.I like the setting,the writing style,the plot,the plot twists and the characters in the book were amazing.I would gladly reread it again.I also like the concept of the book.I Would recommend this book to anyone.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Anne Marie

    I have never heard of Dr Anne Ott but I was given a chance to read her story. The things she had to go through was heartbreaking. This is a great biography. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and University of Illinois Press for my honest opinion.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda Lomazow

    So well written so involving.I had never heard Of Ann Ott the authors research brought her alive had me heartbroken for all she went through.Absolutely terrific read.#netgalley#uofillinoispress

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    A bit boring

  10. 4 out of 5

    Juli Rahel

    Since reading The Great Pretender by Susannah Clark and hearing about Nellie Bly's exposé on mental institutions in the late 1800s, I have been equally fascinated and horrified by the ease with which women ended up in mental institutions. Hence, I was very interested in Nielsen's book the moment I saw it. Her tale of Anna Ott definitely helped elucidate my understanding. Thanks to the University of Illinois Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest r Since reading The Great Pretender by Susannah Clark and hearing about Nellie Bly's exposé on mental institutions in the late 1800s, I have been equally fascinated and horrified by the ease with which women ended up in mental institutions. Hence, I was very interested in Nielsen's book the moment I saw it. Her tale of Anna Ott definitely helped elucidate my understanding. Thanks to the University of Illinois Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. During 2020 I became more and more interested in exploring various historical female perspectives. Where the origin for this lies I'm not entirely sure, but I have come to realize that sometimes the detailed view of one particular life can give you an impression of the larger issues at play during any particular time. When reading about, for example, women's rights or civil rights, it can happen that the larger implications are hard to understand unless they're personified. As a kid I was aware women hadn't had the right I enjoyed previously, but I didn't quite understand the indignity behind it until my grandmother shared some of her own experiences. Similarly, the atrocities of slavery and segregation can be known but made more acute through direct, personal narratives. For me, Money, Marriage, and Madness was one of those reads that brought a slice of history a little closer. Anna Ott was definitely a fascinating woman. She was many things to many different people. A female doctor in a time when they were very rare on the ground. A mother. A wife, a divorcee, and then a wife again, this time to an abuser. Of immigrant origins. Highly educated. Determined. Beleaguered. Declared insane. Reading through her life story, with all its ups and downs brought together expertly by Kim E. Nielsen, you can't help but end up feeling an affinity for her. It is hard to tell whether she would have thrived in a more permissible society, but it was clear that she chafed at the constant impositions placed on her aspirations. Whether it was traveling abroad, running her own doctor's practice, or suing her second husband for divorce multiple times, playing by the rules was not in her interest. When she was finally sent to the Wisconsin State Hospital for the Insane, less is known about her except for steady receipts showing her making life as comfortable as possible for herself. The fact she ended up there at all is rage-inducing and Nielsen doesn't shy away from any of the facts. Insane asylums were convenient storing places for wives and daughters who had become a nuisance and you'd be amazed to find out just how long that went on and who can be accused of doing so. (Looking at you, Charles Dickens!). Money, Marriage, and Madness shows the lives of many through the life of Anna Ott and thereby grants us all a very important insight. Kim E. Nielsen does a brilliant job piecing together the life of a woman who only exists to us in scraps. As she states in her introduction, it is not truly possible to know what exactly was going on as women's lives, especially the lives of those who ended up insane asylums, weren't exactly recorded. So Nielsen works of court documents, newspaper clippings, receipts, anything she can find. From this she crafts a thorough narrative that both informs on Anna Ott and uses Anna Ott to explain the wider circumstances for American women in the 1800s. As mentioned earlier, it can be hard to really understand the limitations upon women until you see them laid out so clearly as in this book. You will rage and you will be exasperated, and then you will be grateful to all the previous feminists for what they've done. And then you'll look around and see what is still going on and be outraged all over again. But that is the point of history, to see how things repeat themselves but also to see how a cycle can be broken. I'm very grateful for authors like Nielsen who put the effort into shining a light into the recesses of forgotten history and salvage what they can. Despite its topic, Money, Marriage, and Madness is a joy to read and never feels like dry history. As far as historical biographies go, Nielsen created a winner that will be sure to inform and engage many. Anyone with an interest in the opportunities for and limitations on women will find Money, Marriage, and Madness a fascinating read. Well-written and well-researched, Nielsen's biography brings a forgotten woman to life.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jen Juenke

    WOW! Let me double up that WOW! This book packs a punch to the gut. I wanted to scream at Dr Anna Ott, I wanted to scream at the patriarchy, I wanted to scream at her time period, this book takes me through a FLOOD of emotions. The book is well written, well thought out, and well researched. Like the author notes in the prologue, it was difficult to know exactly what all was going on and what was happening in Dr. Ott's life, but what little evidence there is....is SHOCKING! I had to put the book d WOW! Let me double up that WOW! This book packs a punch to the gut. I wanted to scream at Dr Anna Ott, I wanted to scream at the patriarchy, I wanted to scream at her time period, this book takes me through a FLOOD of emotions. The book is well written, well thought out, and well researched. Like the author notes in the prologue, it was difficult to know exactly what all was going on and what was happening in Dr. Ott's life, but what little evidence there is....is SHOCKING! I had to put the book down at times because of the violence within. This book should be recommended reading for all PEOPLE who are interested in women's rights, the evolution of women's rights, and domestic violence. Bravo to the author for taking up and researching this difficult and elusive subject!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Pss

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

  14. 5 out of 5

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  15. 5 out of 5

    Terry

  16. 5 out of 5

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  17. 5 out of 5

    Evan Sullivan

  18. 4 out of 5

    Erica Greis

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jutta Patten

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lesley Kay

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kara

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mahrukh Ahmed

  24. 5 out of 5

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  25. 5 out of 5

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  26. 4 out of 5

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  27. 4 out of 5

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  28. 4 out of 5

    Chad Urdy

  29. 4 out of 5

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  30. 5 out of 5

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  32. 5 out of 5

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  33. 4 out of 5

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  34. 5 out of 5

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  35. 5 out of 5

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  36. 4 out of 5

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  37. 4 out of 5

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  38. 5 out of 5

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  39. 5 out of 5

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  40. 4 out of 5

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  41. 4 out of 5

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  42. 4 out of 5

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  43. 5 out of 5

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  44. 5 out of 5

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  45. 4 out of 5

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