Mary Huestis Pengilly bracht een aantal jaren (8?) van haar leven door in een inrichting voor geesteszieken. Na haar ontslag uit de inrichting publiceerde ze gedeelten uit haar tijdens haar opname bijgehouden dagboek onder de titel Diary Written in the Provincial Lunatic Asylum (1885), om aandacht te vragen voor de misstanden waar ze mee te maken had gehad.
February.—My dear Lewis [zoon] has been to see me today. We chat together as usual; how can he think me crazy? Dr. Steeves [behandelend geneesheer] tells him I am, I suppose, and so he thinks it must be so. He is so happy to see me looking better; he is more loving than ever; he holds my hand in his and tells me he will take me out for a drive when the weather is fine. And I said, "Oh Lewis, my dear boy, I am well enough to go home with you to your hotel now." I so long for some of Mrs. Burns' good dinners; her meals are all nice, and here we have such horrid stuff. Dark-colored, sour bakers' bread, with miserable butter, constitutes our breakfast and tea; there is oatmeal porridge and cheap molasses at breakfast, but I could not eat that, it would be salts and senna for me. At noon we have plenty of meat and vegetables, indifferently cooked, but we don't require food suitable for men working out of doors. We need something to tempt the appetite a little.
No matter what I say, how earnestly I plead, he believes Dr. Steeves in preference to me. If I should die here, he will still believe Dr. Steeves, who looks so well they cannot think he would do so great a wrong. When I first began to realize that I must stay here all winter, I begged the Doctor to take me to his table, or change his baker; "I cannot live on such fare as you give us here." His reply was, "I don't keep a boarding house." Who does keep this boarding house? Is there any justice on earth or under heaven? Will this thing always be allowed to go on? Sometimes I almost sink in despair. One consolation is left me—some day death will unlock those prison doors, and my freed spirit will go forth rejoicing in its liberty.
There is a dear girl here whose presence has helped to pass the time more pleasantly, and yet I am more anxious on her account. How can her mother leave her so long in such care as this? Ah, they cannot know how she is faring; she often says, "I used to have nice cake at home, and could make it, too." She has been teaching school, has over-worked, had a fever, lost her[Pg 7] reason, and came here last June. She is well enough to go home. I fear if they leave her here much longer she will never recover her spirits. She is afraid of Mrs. Mills, and dare not ask for any favor. Mrs. Mills is vexed if she finds her in my room, and does not like to see us talking. I suppose she fears we will compare notes to her disadvantage, or detrimental to the rules of the house. I think it is against the rules of this house that we should be indulged in any of the comforts of life.