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Hidden from history? The psychiatric treatment of lesbians and bisexual women

Bottom-up archival scoping study to identify and explore the extent and types of treatment given to lesbians and bisexual women in the UK mental health system from 1952 until 1990.

Aversiontherapy drawing by Dolly Sen
Aversiontherapy drawing by Dolly Sen

Project goals:

  • Provide a preliminary analysis of the extent and types of treatment received by lesbian, bisexual and gender non-conforming women in the UK mental health system.
  • Complement recent hidden histories of the psychiatric treatment of gay, bisexual and non-gender conforming men.
  • Include the experiences of lesbian, bisexual and gender-non conforming women in psychiatric survivor history.
  • Contribute to the historiographies of psychiatric treatments.
  • Address the historical gaps in knowledge of both LGBT and mental health user/survivor histories.
  • Assess the feasibility, design and scope of a larger oral history study exploring women's lived experiences, and developing counter narratives to the clinical discourse.


  • Scoping and researching relevant LGBT, women's and mental health archives;
  • Identifying relevant LGBT and relevant mental health testimonies, memoirs and autobiographical material;
  • Developing partnerships with older LGBT and mental health service user organisations to collaborate in further research.

Project Lead

Professor Helen Spandler

Collaborators and Partners

Dr. Sarah Carr

Public Outputs

Spandler, H. (2020) ‘The shocking ‘treatment’ to make lesbians straight’. Welcome Collection Stories.

Spandler, H, Carr, S. (2020) 'A history of lesbian politics and the psy professions'. Feminism and Psychology

Carr, S. Spandler, H. (2019). Hidden from history? A brief modern history of the psychiatric “treatment” of lesbian and bisexual women in England. The Lancet Psychiatry. Volume 6, Issue 4: 289-290

French, R. Kneale, D. Spandler, H. et al (accepted) ‘Conducting sexualities research – an outline of emergent issues and case studies from ten Wellcome-funded projects’. Wellcome Open Research

Carr, S. (2019) Madness, Sexuality and Legacies of Strategic Sanism. Mad in America 

Research Grouping

Research Theme/Institute/Centre

Expertise and Subject area

  • Mental Health and Wellbeing
  • Social Work and Social Policy
  • School of Social Work, Care and Community


Wellcome Trust: Seed Award in Humanities and Social Science (funder)



Social Media

Twitter: @hspandler@SchrebersSister