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Lunch and Learn: When Harry Met Elsey: Madness, Power, and Justice in Federal-Era Baltimore

When Harry Met Elsey: Madness, Power, and Justice in Federal-Era Baltimore

Registration not required, but encouraged. Please register for the event here.

Love. Sex. Intrigue. Deception. Conflict. Violence. Bigotry. Greed. A true story set in 1800s Baltimore. 

The article When Harry Met Elsie pits a wealthy, urban, white family against a young, white woman of humble origins in a custody contest over the person and property of her husband, who some considered to be insane. The narrative, derived from archived court documents, allows us a rare glimpse into the life and the limited rights of a person society labeled as mentally ill when the field of psychiatry was in its infancy and when public opinion decided the standards for what might be termed deviant behavior. Societal beliefs and constraints, with behavioral expectations based on race, gender, and class, colored the sequence of events and informed the outcomes in this particular case. 

At the heart of the story is the question of whether someone considered to be mentally ill could legally marry and, in a broader sense, enjoy the same rights as other citizens, a status much revered and spoken about idealistically during the early years of our republic. 

Come join Dr. Rob Schoeberlein, Baltimore City Archivist, as he discusses and takes questions about his recent Maryland Historical Magazine article, When Harry Met Elsey: Madness, Power and Justice in Federal Era Baltimore, a 2022 Arline Custer Memorial Award winner. 

Anyone wishing to read the piece before the presentation may access it for free starting on page 49 of this pdf:

Robert W. Schoeberlein is employed by the Maryland State Archives and is presently the Baltimore City Archivist. His research and publications have focused mostly on Civil War-era social history and mental health care reform movements. Dr. Schoeberlein is a Trustee of the Maryland Historical Society, where he chairs its Library Committee and is a member of its Publications Committee. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland.

ASL interpretation will be available for attendees.

Presented in partnership with The Maryland State Archives and The Maryland Four Centuries Project.

Virtual Meeting Information

To join virtually visit the Enoch Pratt Free Library's Facebook or Youtube page. 

Thursday, August 10 at 1:00pm

Virtual Event
Event Type

Virtual Event, Maryland Interest

Age Group

Adults, Seniors

Compass Category

Programs For Adults

Event Publisher

Emily Levine, Manager of Adult Services

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