When English Professor Dianne Berg read news about a Duxbury, Massachusetts, mother accused of killing her three children, she thought immediately of two cases from her research. Berg studies representations of domestic violence and the literary appropriation of real stories about death, murder, and infanticide.
She’s analyzed the discourse and press coverage of Margaret Vincent, a mother of three who killed two of her children in 1616 because she believed that if the family didn’t convert to Catholicism, they would all be damned, and of Andrea Yates, a Houston woman suffering from postpartum mental illness who drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001 because she believed it would save them from hell.
Berg examines the way these women are described in the media. There’s something different about the story of Lindsay Clancy, the Duxbury mother, compared to Vincent and Yates. Berg is noticing increased compassion and discussion of postpartum depression and psychosis.
“The push to raise consciousness about postpartum depression and psychosis at a sort of grassroots level is impressive,” Berg says. “More noise has to be made and more pressure has to be put on our lawmakers to address the woeful inadequacy of our healthcare system in this country.”
Berg recommends the book “Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers” by Sady Doyle to anyone who wants to read more about this topic.