Though pin-swallowing is still sometimes identified in individual medical cases as having suicidal intent, this is often not the automatic conclusion.
- Though pin-swallowing is still sometimes identified in individual medical cases as having suicidal intent, this is often not the automatic conclusion.
- But in early modern British society, where pins were ubiquitous, there were widespread fears about them being consumed.
- The ready availability of pins meant that they were also a potential danger to those who wished to do themselves harm.
- A young woman named Helen Fairfax was tempted to end her life using a pin at her family home in Yorkshire in 1621.
- Early modern people believed that the devil was constantly looking for ways to tempt them towards sin.
- The girl tried to swallow the items so often that they had “a box near full” of confiscated pins.
- It was increasingly associated with “hysteria”, an historical illness involving anxiety and excess emotion which was commonly associated with women, and the asylum.
- By the 19th century, self-injurious behaviours such as swallowing or inserting pins into the body gained an increasingly moral dimension.
- In his 1857 work, A Collection of Remarkable Cases in Surgery, the American surgeon Paul F. Eve (1806-1877) detailed a vast number of medical accounts.
- This is despite the fact that the act of suicide was both a crime and a sin in this period.
- Though early modern people were expected to resist the devil’s temptation, they were not necessarily held responsible for experiencing it.
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Imogen Knox receives funding from the M4C/AHRC