Genre: Biographies of persons with disabilities; Women’s biographies
Synopsis: Her Name Was Margaret tracks the difficult life and devolvement of Margaret Louise Jacobson, a once religiously devoted and musically talented young girl who suffered a psychotic break as a teenager. Following her commitment to a psychiatric hospital and a diagnosis of schizophrenia, Ms. Jacobson spent the rest of her short-lived life bouncing in and out of the psychiatric hospital, numerous boarding houses, a variety of different shelters, and thousands of nights on the streets of Hamilton, Ontario. Ms. Davy details the tragedies that befell Margaret to exemplify the grave impact of deinstitutionalization.
This review was originally published on Story Circle Networks here.
Similar to America’s move in the mid-twentieth century toward the deinstitutionalization of those with significant mental health issues, Canadian journalist and author Denise Davy chronicles her country’s efforts to do the same in the heartbreaking biography of Margaret Louise Jacobson.
Ms. Davy notes that the homeless population in Canada is estimated to be approximately 235,000 each year, some 35.000 of whom are sleeping on the streets. Worse still, up to 70% of those homeless in Canada are suffering from some form of mental illness, and many end up incarcerated at one time or another.
In Her Name Was Margaret, Denise Davy provides a human face to the complex issues of homelessness and psychiatric and supportive care for the mentally ill. Detailing years of neglectful social workers, rather uncaring and/or uninformed medical personnel, frustrated family members, and a calamitously underfunded source of housing and supportive care for deinstitutionalized mental care patients, Denise Davy provides the reader with a heartrending account of the ways in which society failed to care for and help Ms. Jacobson. She also makes clear that there are hundreds of thousands of other Margarets out there, all of whom are in need of appropriate medical and supportive care.
Her Name Was Margaret is a compelling, thought-provoking read – one that reminds the reader to have a little more compassion and consideration for all those struggling with mental illness and/or homelessness.
My Rating: 5/5
About the Author: Denise Davy is a renowned Canadian journalist, specializing in pieces about gender issues, homelessness, and mental health issues. She is also the founder of the “Purses for Margaret” project, which collects gently-used purses and new personal hygiene products for donation to homeless women. For more on Ms. Davy, go to https://www.denisedavy.ca/.
Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Ms. Davy’s book, Her Name Was Margaret, via Story Circle Network, in exchange for my honest review of the book.