The Enigma of Bee Miles: Asylum, Anguish, and Encephalitis Lethargica



Publication Details

Edwards, G. & Kaplan, R. (2018). The Enigma of Bee Miles: Asylum, Anguish, and Encephalitis Lethargica. Health And History, 20 (1), 93-119.


Beatrice 'Bee' Miles (hereafter Bee) is known as twentieth-century Sydney's most eccentric character whose life is celebrated as a cultural icon. The public idea of Bee's personality was shaped by her psychiatric admissions, newspaper publicity, outspoken political and social comments, and outrageous behaviour. Until now, there has been no access to the records of her hospitalisation in the twenties. Her notes and diaries provide a unique insight into ward life in Australian psychiatric hospitals at that time. The medical files show that Bee's behaviour arose from an attack of encephalitis lethargica at eighteen, drawing attention to the most important infectious disease shaping psychiatric disorder in the twentieth century: 'nature's explosive experiment'.

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