In her controversial book, Women and Madness, Phyllis Chesler argued that the definitions of mental illness, created by men, are often used as a means of controlling and abusing women. Chesler became involved with the women’s movement while studying psychology and at the 1969 annual meeting of the American Psychological Association she demanded $1 million in reparations for decades of women being misdiagnosed and drugged or imprisoned against their will. In Women and Madness, she outlined the double standards that labeled male behavior as normal and women’s behavior as insane, as well as real problems, such as postpartum depression and childhood sexual abuse, that the psychiatric community failed to treat. She went on to teach psychology and anthropology at Richmond College, where she founded one of the first women’s studies departments in the country. A cofounder of the Association for Women in Psychology and the National Women's Health Network, Chesler later became a founding member of Women of the Wall.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Phyllis Chesler." (Viewed on January 22, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/chesler-phyllis>.